Montel Magazine 1 - 2020 - Page 30

“[EDF] does not have the funds to replace old reactors with new ones. So, it has a choice – either extend reactors or find another energy policy” “Once you reach the end of scheduled lifespans failure rates are higher,” he adds. This year’s 10-year inspections will be tough as they concern reactors with different capacities (900 MW, 1,300 MW and 1,500 MW units) and different ages, says Coghe.“The cards are stacked against EDF because of the need to be more thorough. Sometimes it’s uncharted territory [and] all this leads to more delays.” “It’s very likely we will see the same problem [of delays] this year,” says De Vigan. “I think the reality is that EDF and [French nuclear safety authority] ASN don’t have enough proper nuclear experts. People have retired.”The company also faces “contingencies” or setbacks that are “out of its control”, says Coghe. For instance, poor weather held back repairs to corroded emergency back-up diesel generators at the 1.3 GW Paluel 4, with EDF extending works 28 times. The utility finally restarted the reactor on 26 October, 122 days later than scheduled. EDF has also blamed in part problems with back-up generators as the cause of lengthy outages at Flamanville 2. Yet the utility has failed to properly inform the market about the reasons for the long delays, says De Vigan.“The only thing we are seeing is major delays compared to what is published, which is annoying because under [EU regulation] Remit one would expect more accurate data.” This is dangerous because it leaves the door open to accusations the firm is manipulating prices by deliberately keeping reactors offline, he adds. “People are wondering.” EDF’s head of nuclear output, Stephane Feutry, concedes his firm’s outage schedules are the topic of “a lot of internal talk” but insists that “start-up dates are established according to a work schedule that is known with sufficient margins”. “If we communicated longer dates systematically, for a large number of reactors, this would also be wrong. And we would have to announce earlier dates along the way.” EDF carried out up to 20,000 activities during the fourth 10-year inspection at Tricastin 1, Feutry says, adding it has learnt lessons so that “our next inspections will be better”, For consultant Schneider, whose annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report found there were 5,000 outage days at French reactors in 2018, the problem is also political.“The big problem is French nuclear policy… EDF has to sell the idea that its fairly straightforward to extend reactor lifetimes,” he says. “It does not have the funds to replace old reactors with new ones. So, it has a choice – either extend reactors or find another energy policy.” Meanwhile, the embattled state-owned firm saw its nuclear output fall to a three-year low of 379.5 TWh last year, missing the utility’s target set in November to produce 384-388 TWh. This year it “should be able to produce what we had planned for 2019”, despite the closure of its oldest reactors at Fessenheim this spring, says Feutry. Place your bets. n 30 Montel Magazine 1–2020