October 4, 2018 / 8:04 AM / 2 years ago

France no longer ties Fessenheim shutdown to start-up of new nuclear reactor

PARIS (Reuters) - French Ecology Minister Francois de Rugy said on Thursday the closure of the country’s oldest nuclear plant at Fessenheim was not conditional on the start-up of a new reactor that utility EDF is building, and that it would be decommissioned by 2022.

The French government had previously tied the shutdown of Fessenheim’s two 900-megawatt (MW) reactors to the commissioning of the new generation EPR Flamanville 3 reactor that EDF is building in Normandy.

“The (Fessenheim) plant will close during this presidential mandate, which runs until 2022,” de Rugy told francinfo radio.

De Rugy said EDF had been unable give any clarity on when Flamanville’s new EPR reactor would come online. In July, problems with weldings forced the company to push back the start-up date again to the second quarter of 2020.

On Wednesday, French nuclear regulator ASN said faulty weldings at the plant could require more repairs than originally estimated.

“Today, no one can say for sure when Flamanville will start and be operational,” de Rugy said.

Former president Francois Hollande’s Socialist government signed a decree in April 2017 stating that the Fessenheim nuclear power plant would halt power production by April 2020 once Flamanville 3 was operational.

“EDF is not able to give us a start-up date for Flamanville, neither is the Nuclear Safety Authority,” de Rugy said.

The uncertainty meant the government now held the view the closure of Fessenheim and the start-up of Flamanville could not happen at the same time, he said.

France - which produces 75 percent of its electricity in the nuclear reactors of state-owned utility EDF - will decide in coming weeks on a new long-term energy strategy, which will include reducing the share of nuclear to 50 percent, but so far no deadline has been set for that target.

Reporting by Richard Lough, Emmanuel Jarry, Simon Carraud; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and David Evans

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