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Germany Becomes Net Power Importer From France After Atomic Halt

France became a net exporter of electricity to Germany last month after the Japanese atomic disaster and subsequent shutdown of German reactors reversed an electricity trading trend between Europe’s biggest markets.

In April, France was a net exporter of power to Germany for the first time since the summer months of June, July and August last year, according to data published on the website of Reseau de Transport d’Electricite, the grid operator owned by Electricite de France SA, Europe’s biggest power generator.

Overall, French power imports from Germany outstripped exports last year. Power trading between the countries may change following German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision in March to shut the country’s seven oldest reactors and today’s announcement of an exit from the power source by 2022.

EDF operates France’s 58 nuclear reactors which allow the country to be an net power exporter to European neighbors and provide relatively cheap electricity to customers at home. The state-controlled utility is developing a new atomic plant at Flamanville in Normandy and has plans for another in northern France at Penly. Since the Fukushima disaster in March, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is facing an election next year, has vowed to continue to invest in the atomic industry.

France, which relies on nuclear plants for about three-quarters of its power needs, exported a net 509 gigawatt hours to Germany last month compared with net imports of 618 gigawatts during the same month last year, RTE said. In the most recent month, Germany joined Belgium, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the U.K. in relying on France for more power imports than exports, the data indicates.

Ambivalent Public

Unlike in Germany, polls have shown the French to be more ambivalent about nuclear energy. A TNS Sofres poll in March indicated just 19 percent of respondents wanting a rapid reversal of the country’s reliance on atomic power.

In recent years, EDF has increasingly been forced to rely on electricity from abroad to meet demand during peak periods such as heat waves and cold snaps. France was a net power exporter in 2010 to Italy, the U.K. and Switzerland, and a net importer from Belgium, Spain and Germany, RTE documents show.

EDF Chief Executive Officer Henri Proglio is aiming to raise French atomic output this year compared to 2010.

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