* EDF halted Cruas reactors after earthquake
* French nuclear watchdog ASN still investigating
* ASN will have to green light reactors before restart
* Worries over French nuclear availability ahead of winter (Recasts with delay of Cruas 2 reactor)
By Bate Felix
PARIS, Nov 28 (Reuters) - French state-controlled utility EDF has delayed the restart of its 900 megawatts (MW) Cruas 2 nuclear reactor by three days until Dec. 5, as nuclear watchdog ASN continues a safety probe following an earthquake.
EDF temporarily suspended power generation at the Cruas nuclear power plant, which has 4 reactors with a combined 3,600 MW capacity, for further safety checks following a 5.1 magnitude earthquake in southeastern France on Nov. 11.
“Reactor startup may be delayed by the duration of the ongoing control process,” EDF said on its website on Thursday evening.
French nuclear safety authority ASN said earlier on Thursday that it was still conducting its investigation at the plant.
Fears over potential delays in the restart of the Cruas and several other reactors operated by EDF ahead of winter have boosted power prices, traders said.
A spokeswoman for ASN said the investigation is still ongoing and ASN had not cleared any of the four Cruas reactors for restart.
EDF has said that no visible damage was found at the plant following the earthquake, but a sensor was activated, forcing it to suspend production for further safety checks.
According to information provided by company earlier, Cruas 2 was due to resume production on Monday, Dec. 2.
The similar capacity Cruas 3 is still expected to restart on Dec. 19, while Cruas 4 will restart on Dec. 9. Cruas 1, which has been offline since September for a scheduled maintenance upgrade, is expected to restart on Dec. 19.
EDF operates France’s 58 nuclear reactors that cover around 75% of French electricity needs.
Nuclear power availability is at around 70% of total capacity on Thursday with 18 of the 58 nuclear reactors offline.
European power grid operators’ lobby Entso-E said in its winter outlook on Wednesday that France and Belgium face potential supply risks in case of extreme temperatures.
“The (French) nuclear maintenance plan is in the average of the last 10 years, except from mid–January to mid– February where the availability is less favourable than last year,” Entso-E said in the report.
French baseload power price for the first quarter of 2020 gained 1.5% to 55.40 euros ($60.90) a megawatt hour, the contract for January delivery was up 2.2% at 58 euros/MWh in wholesale trade on Thursday. ($1 = 0.9073 euros) (Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Toby Chopra and Alexandra Hudson)