As Europe faces a winter with lower energy supply due to sanctions against Russian, the continent will also have to contend with decreased energy from French nuclear power plants.
- Of Frances’s 56 nuclear reactors, 26 are off-line due to needed maintenance or repairs. Hundreds of welders and inspectors are working to ensure the safety of the power plants.
- In some plants, inspectors have discovered cracks and corrosion in pipes used to cool the plant’s reactors.
- France has long been Europe’s main producer of nuclear energy. With energy shortages in other categories, France’s struggles could be a problem for all of Europe.
- Électricité de France (EDF), the French nuclear-power operator, announced a week ago that all reactors but 10 would be back online by January.
Why it’s news
A series of setbacks including unavoidable repair delays and safety-related concerns have resulted in the slower than expected maintenance time.
France’s power plant struggles come at the same time that Europe is running short on energy. Both sanctions from European governments and Russian withholdings have left the continent with less fuel than the continent typically needs heading into winter.
As a result, energy prices in Europe have risen as well as concerns about potential rationing and shortages during the colder months of the year. Some counties have placed price caps on energy and citizens are conserving more energy, but that may not be enough.
European countries have been looking to alternate energy sources, including both coal and nuclear. While some countries like Germany have chosen to keep nuclear plants that were scheduled for decommissioning, the loss of French energy is an unexpected added difficulty.
France began its emphasis on nuclear power in the 1980s, and it seems the country has plans to continue building its energy supply. French President Macron proposed a plan earlier this month that would start construction on six massive reactors beginning in 2028.
Nuclear power makes up 70% of French electricity supply in addition to the energy the country exports.
The dozens of power plants have been plagued with one setback after another. In addition to dozens of needed repairs on corroded and cracked pipes, the EDF has also had to grapple with low revenue and worker strikes as laborers demanded higher wages.
Planned repairs on the power plants were already behind schedule due to delays from COVID-19. When inspections restarted, inspectors found urgent problems in need of repairs. French nuclear power is now at a 30 year low.
France’s energy problem has resulted in the country—which is normally an exporter of energy—turning to other countries to import enough energy to keep the lights on.