Restart could be delayed: radioactive leak discovered in French nuclear plant

The poor condition of French nuclear power plants is contributing to the European energy problem, which is also causing trouble for Germany this winter.

Restart could be delayed: radioactive leak discovered in French nuclear plant

The poor condition of French nuclear power plants is contributing to the European energy problem, which is also causing trouble for Germany this winter. The restart of a pile in Civaux, southwestern France, could now be further delayed. The reason is a radioactive leak.

French energy supplier EDF has discovered a radioactive leak at its Civaux nuclear power plant in the southwest of the country. It occurred in the primary cooling circuit and was noticed last Wednesday, EDF said. There is no security risk. No radioactivity was measured outside the plant. There were also no personnel near the leak. The nuclear regulator ASN requested a report on the incident from EDF.

The leak could delay the reactor's scheduled January 8 restart, an industry insider said. EDF said it is too early to say what the impact of the incident will be. It is unclear whether this will delay the restart of the reactor.

The 1,500-megawatt Civaux 1 reactor has been shut down since August 2021 for a ten-year scheduled maintenance. The work had already been delayed by a week. EDF is now facing "a possible major further delay," the insider said. Civaux 1 is one of a series of reactors that EDF plans to restart in time to produce electricity this winter.

Already last Friday, EDF had to correct the electricity production expected for the current year downwards due to delays in the maintenance of the nuclear power plants. Accordingly, the amount of electricity is expected to be between 275 and 285 terawatt hours. Reasons are the effects of strikes that have since ended on the planned maintenance of the nuclear power plants. In addition, four power plants would have to be off the grid longer than planned to control and repair corrosion problems. Higher production is expected again in 2023 and 2024.

EDF operates all 56 French nuclear reactors, but almost half of them are currently offline for maintenance and repairs. For the upcoming winter, France is therefore relying on the import of electricity from Germany and, in return, has recently been helping its neighbors out with natural gas.

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