France Will Shut Fessenheim as Soon as Possible, Batho Says

Electricite de France SA’s oldest nuclear plant will be shut as soon as possible as a pilot for dismantling atomic sites, Energy Minister Delphine Batho said.

“Fessenheim will close as soon as possible under technically and socially responsible conditions that will guarantee security of electricity supply, transformation of the site and jobs,” Batho told France Info radio today. The timing will result from a national debate on energy in coming months.

President Francois Hollande pledged in this year’s election campaigning to shutter the plant before the end of his five-year term as part of a policy of curbing reliance on atomic energy. The Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan last year prompted concerns that Fessenheim, near France’s eastern border with Germany, may not be strong enough to withstand an earthquake.

The atomic safety regulator, Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, has ordered EDF to reinforce the concrete base of Fessenheim’s 900-megawatt reactors by mid-2013 or shutter the facility. EDF’s plans for the work, seeking to strengthen containment in the event of a core meltdown, are being considered by ASN.

EDF will push ahead with plans for the work even though the plant is slated to be closed by the government, it has said.

“We will make Fessenheim a sort of pilot site for the dismantling industry,” Batho said. “There will be a number of reactors in the world closing and this is a challenge for industry.” France “will continue to need nuclear.”

Supply Challenge

France faces a shortage of capacity within three years, in part as Fessenheim and outdated coal plants are shut, Reseau de Transport d’Electricite, EDF’s grid unit, said this week. Power supply will be a “challenge” around Fessenheim in Germany and France if it’s closed, RTE President Dominique Maillard said.

“The impact on French power supply security and on EDF revenues should be limited,” said Chris Rogers, a Bloomberg Industries European utility analyst. “It’s a small part of the fleet and will be the only plant closed in the next few years.”

EDF plans to start commercial output in 2016 at a 1,650-megawatt EPR atomic plant being built in Flamanville, Normandy. Hollande pledged to cut dependence on nuclear to 50 percent of power output by about 2025 from more than three-quarters now.

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