French Nogent nuclear reactor to resume operations

French state-owned nuclear operator Electricite de France’s (EDF) 1.3 GW Nogent reactor is set to resume operations today, following a

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Photo: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

French state-owned nuclear operator Electricite de France’s (EDF) 1.3 GW Nogent reactor is set to resume operations today, following a 10-year maintenance overhaul.

The reactor is the first of five to resume operations in the ensuing months, ahead of schedule. France’s nuclear power generation has proven resilient despite restrictions to cope with safe-distancing and the summer heat wave. Nuclear output peaked in July with 34GW of energy produced, a significant increase from June, which saw the lowest on year average of 29GW. Regardless, grid operators reported a 15% slump in electricity demand due to the slowdown in economic activity.

A pandemic-induced decrease in demand, lower nuclear output and the postponement of operations have dampened the sector. Regardless, EDF plans to weather the storm by cutting operating costs and pursuing asset sales—likely to stabilise net investments at $17.7 billion on average annually. However, President Emmanuel Macron intends to pivot France away from nuclear-produced electricity toward renewables, with 14 reactors set to be shuttered by 2035. However, the substitution risks undersupply and closures are sure to aggravate union workers. Most workers belong to the hardline General Confederation of Labour (CGT) union, which is expected to continue disrupting the industry in the short and medium-terms to protest Macron’s long-term nuclear policies.

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