President Francois Hollande’s decision to shut Electricite de France SA’s oldest reactor at Fessenheim in 2016 may force the power-exporting eastern region to rely on imports and require extra spending on the local grid.
“The power supply situation of Alsace will become more fragile,” Dominique Maillard, president of grid operator Reseau de Transport d’Electricite, said at a press conference today.
Work needed to modify local grid infrastructure ahead of the planned shutdown will cost about 50 million euros ($64 million) while another 150 million euros will have to be spent earlier than scheduled to reinforce and possibly add high-tension cables in the region, Maillard said.
Hollande’s decision to shut the 1,800-megawatt Fessenheim plant is part of his campaign promise to reduce France’s dependence on nuclear generation. Questions about Fessenheim’s ability to withstand earthquakes were raised following the Fukushima disaster in Japan last year. The country’s safety authority has ordered EDF to thicken the concrete base of one of the reactors by the middle of next year even though it’s slated for closing.
Alsace, the eastern region near the German border, could become like Brittany and Provence-Alpes-Cotes d’Azur if work on the grid isn’t carried out, Maillard said. A lack of power-generation capacity in those western and southern regions has meant they face higher risks of supply shortages during peak demand periods like cold spells.
The planned shutdown of Fessenheim won’t “fundamentally change” France’s power supply and demand balance because of the economic slowdown, which has lowered electricity use, and the scheduled start up on 2016 of EDF’s 1,650-megawatt EPR reactor at Flamanville, according to Maillard.
“We won’t have to add production,” because of the Fessenheim shutdown, he said. “What we will have to do is rethink the local grid.”