Up to 14 new reactors possible: France plans to build two nuclear power plants

After initial hesitation, French President Macron is fully committed to nuclear power in the future.

Up to 14 new reactors possible: France plans to build two nuclear power plants

After initial hesitation, French President Macron is fully committed to nuclear power in the future. Up to 14 new nuclear reactors are planned. For two of them, construction should start as early as 2024. However, there are technical and political hurdles.

The French energy company EDF wants to start construction work for new nuclear reactors in Penly on the English Channel in 2024. Specifically, it is initially about two of up to 14 new pressurized water reactors (EPR), said the responsible director Gabriel Oblin. "If the political decisions are made quickly, we can start the preparatory construction work there in mid-2024."

The first reactors could then come online in 2035-37, he added. French President Emmanuel Macron announced in February that six additional nuclear reactors would be built by 2035. Another eight nuclear reactors could follow.

However, the only French EPR reactor to date in Flamanville is still under construction. It was originally supposed to go online in 2012 and cost 3.3 billion euros. The French Court of Auditors had estimated the actual costs in 2020 at 19 billion euros. It is currently expected that Flamanville will be able to go online in late 2023. In 2024, however, the reactor is to be shut down again so that the reactor cover can be changed. The steel used showed anomalies.

There is currently a legally required public debate on the expansion of nuclear power. At the beginning of November, the government introduced a law intended to remove bureaucratic hurdles for the construction of further nuclear power plants. Accordingly, preparatory construction work may be started before the end of the public debate. The bill is scheduled to be debated in the National Assembly at the end of the year.

In Penly, the area on which the reactor is to be built is to be leveled first. The six new EPR reactors are to be built in pairs at existing nuclear power plants. According to EDF, construction of the reactors in Penly is scheduled to begin at the end of 2027. At the peak of the construction phase in 2029, 7,500 people are expected to work on the site.

The French parliament must pass a new energy law by 2024 at the latest, in which the share of the respective electricity source is to be determined. At the beginning of his first mandate, Macron wanted to reduce the share of nuclear power from around 70 to 50 percent and to take 14 reactors off the grid. He later changed his mind and announced that he wanted to expand nuclear power and renewable energies at the same time.

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