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EDF Will Spend Millions on Fessenheim Reactor Measures

Electricite de France SA, the biggest nuclear operator, will spend about 18 million euros ($23.5 million) before the middle of next year on safety measures at its oldest atomic plant in eastern France.

The Paris-based utility plans to spend 15 million euros strengthening the concrete base under Unit 1 at Fessenheim and about 3 million euros for added pumping capacity, EDF said today in a presentation.

French Socialist Francois Hollande, who leads in the polls for the May 6 second-round of the presidential election, has pledged to close Fessenheim as he seeks to lower the country’s dependence on atomic power. Fessenheim has been criticized by environmental groups as not strong enough to resist earthquakes because its base is thinner than other French reactors. French reactor safety came under scrutiny following last year’s accident at Fukushima in Japan.

Fessenheim has two 900-megawatt reactors that started operating in 1977. The atomic regulator has ruled Unit 1 is safe to run for another decade as long as EDF reinforces its concrete base by mid-2013 and bolsters defenses against any unexpected loss of cooling systems. The watchdog hasn’t yet ruled on Unit 2, which resumed output last month after halting for almost a year for safety checks.

EDF has spent more than 380 million euros since 2009 on the reactors so they can pass the once-a-decade inspections, according to today’s presentation, which was given at a press conference at the plant. The utility replaced three vapor generators on Unit 2 at a cost of 150 million euros.

EDF also has to boost measures to protect a reservoir under the plant by the end of this year. The groundwater reservoir is a few meters (yards) under the site and extends 2,800 square kilometers (1,080 square miles), making it the biggest in Europe, according to documents on the regulator’s website.

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