French Nuclear Reliance to Drop Without Reactor Halts, EDF Says

Forecasts for rising power use will curb Electricite de France’s ability to satisfy domestic demand even without the closure of more nuclear reactors, Chief Executive Officer Henri Proglio said.

That would see the country’s reliance on nuclear power dropping to 50 percent of power production by about 2025 from more than 75 percent now, he said. That would meet President Francois Hollande’s campaign pledge to reduce France’s dependence on nuclear generation.

Progio’s comments come ahead of a national debate on energy which the government has said will lay the groundwork for legislation that could determine EDF’s spending plans on its reactors for decades. Hollande’s promise to cut dependence on nuclear energy stemmed from an electoral pact with the Greens party and marked a departure from previous backing of atomic power from the main Socialist and conservative parties in France.

“We won’t have sufficient energy production to satisfy demand,” Proglio said today on RTL radio. “We will have to find the means to satisfy demand.”

Projections for rising power demand by 2025 are based on a combination of a jump in France’s population by 6 million, economic growth and consumer demand fed by increasing use of electronic devices and electricity-powered modes of transport, the CEO said.

Electric Cars

French power demand fell 6.8 percent last year to 478.2 terawatt hours while nuclear output of 421.1 terawatt hours provided 78 percent of France’s total power production, according to grid operator RTE data. The country’s power generator lobby UFE has forecast demand could rise to 555 to 625 terawatt-hours by 2030, depending on the level of energy savings and economic growth. The increase will be driven partly by demand from electric cars and fast trains.

Hollande last month announced the permanent halt of EDF’s oldest plant at Fessenheim in eastern France by the end of 2016 as part of his election manifesto. The two 900-megawatt reactors, which began operations in 1977, came under scrutiny following last year’s Fukushima disaster in Japan as being not strong enough to withstand earthquakes and flooding. The regulator has asked EDF to bolster defenses by the middle of next year.

EDF’s new 1,650-megawatt EPR being built in Flamanville in Normandy is scheduled to begin commercial power production in 2016, the same year Fessenheim will close.

New Means

The Greens’ electoral pact with the Socialist Party, which was never published, was for the shutting down of 24 of France’s 58 nuclear reactors by 2025. During the campaign Hollande distanced himself from the policy, pledging closure of Fessenheim and a lowering of nuclear reliance instead.

Proglio’s comments today indicate that the utility’s existing reactors may be spared as the government formulates policy.

“We could do everything,” he said today. “We could keep existing production for the most part, which is what the government is planning, and add new means.”

Proglio’s position at the helm of the utility was made uncertain with the May election of Hollande. The president’s campaign communications chief, Manuel Valls, who is now interior minister, in February questioned Proglio’s support of incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and said his attitude during the campaign had been “totally abnormal.” France holds 84 percent of EDF.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tara Patel in Paris at tpatel2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net

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