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Home straight for the extension of French nuclear power plants

2021 promises to be a decisive year for the French nuclear industry. While Hercules, the explosive issue concerning the future of EDF, is still the subject of intense discussions between the government and the European Commission, the debate around the extension of nuclear reactors beyond 40 years is taking place. is stepping up a few days before the end of the public consultation on the subject, launched last December by the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN).

The day before this deadline, on January 21, its president Bernard Doroszczuk, is expected to speak on this theme during the presentation of his wishes to the press. While the anti-nuclear NGO Greenpeace sees a “danger zone “, the French nuclear energy company (Sfen), the lobby of the sector, considers on the contrary that “nuclear power plants are safer today than when they were started”.

The question arises for 32 reactors of 900 MWe (electric megawatts). These are the oldest of the 56 reactors in the French nuclear fleet. These pressurized water reactors were commissioned at the end of the 1970s, and 13 of them have already exceeded 40 years of operation. However, if the French nuclear reactors were authorized without limitation of operating time, EDF had initially envisaged a life of 40 years.

“The safety calculations on the components were carried out for 40 years. They were not carried out over a longer period. However, that does not mean that they cannot last longer or that one cannot not change them “, explains Valérie Faudon, general secretary of Sfen.

Objective: to achieve the safety level of EPRs

While the French nuclear gendarme must decide definitively on this question in the coming months (with a generic opinion for the entire fleet at first, then a unit-by-unit decision made during the fourth ten-yearly inspection of each of the reactors ), its orientation is already known. ASN in fact published at the beginning of December a draft decision opening the way to the continued operation of the power plants beyond 40 years, subject to “significant improvements in safety”. These prescriptions are precisely the subject of public consultation and are therefore subject to citizens’ comments until January 22.

Sfen, which is obviously in favor, published its official response on January 13, believing that “extend the operation of …

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