EDF Faces ‘Uncertainty’ on Nuclear Reactor Life Spans, ASN Says

Electricite de France SA, Europe’s biggest nuclear operator, faces “uncertainty” about how long it can operate its French reactors, the country’s regulator said.

“We are a long way from making a decision,” on whether EDF will be able to operate its nuclear reactors beyond 40 years, Pierre-Franck Chevet, head of the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, said at a parliamentary hearing in Paris late yesterday. The life span of the plants is uncertain because “we are at the very beginning of a process.”

EDF Chief Executive Officer Henri Proglio backs investment in the utility’s 58 working reactors to allow them to operate for as long as six decades. The oldest 30-year models have been given approval by the regulator to generate electricity for an additional decade, to 40 years. At the same time, President Francois Hollande has pledged to lower the country’s dependence on atomic power and shut the oldest plant at Fessenheim.

The ASN may provide a “technical indication” in 2015 of what EDF would have to do to extend the lifespan of its reactors, Chevet said. The safety requirements for so-called third generation reactors will frame these decisions.

EDF’s French reactors currently provide about three quarters of the country’s power output. The utility is building a new generator at Flamanville in Normandy.

The ASN yesterday published its annual report on safety at France’s nuclear reactors, waste and fuel-processing sites, and medical and industrial sites that use radioactive materials. The report examines technical safety as well as policy.

The French government is currently spearheading a debate on the country’s energy mix, the outcome of which may determine whether EDF has to close more reactors in the coming decade.

“Whatever the outcome, there will be nuclear in France for years to come,”Chevet said.

The government must ensure sufficient capacity is available in the event of safety problems that would require the shutdown of as many as 10 atomic reactors, he said. “The French power system has to be able to deal with this.”

EDF’s nuclear plants at Chinon, Cruas-Meysse and Paluel need to improve safety, according to the report. Areva SA (AREVA) must improve waste storage at its oldest installations at La Hague in northern France and the Commissariat a l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives, which carries out nuclear research, has to improve its performance on dismantling because it relies too heavily on sub-contractors.

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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