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EDF Atomic Reactor Life Extensions ‘Years Away,’ ASN Says

France’s atomic regulator warned Electricite de France SA that it’s years away from getting permission to extend the operating lives of its reactors beyond 40 years.

The Autorite de Surete Nucleaire will provide an initial assessment of EDF’s plans in 2015 and a final decision at an unspecified time after that, said President Pierre-Franck Chevet. The decision will be based on safety considerations and supersede government policy, he told Le Monde in comments confirmed by Evangelia Petit, an ASN spokeswoman.

Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici yesterday confirmed the government is considering a possible increase of the period that EDF is able to amortize its nuclear reactors in preparing corporate accounts. An extension to 50 years from 40 years would result in “large and lasting consequences” for electricity production costs as well as a one-time financial advantage for the utility, the Commission de Regulation de l’Energie market regulator said in a June report.

EDF’s request for an amortization extension will be discussed as part of France’s plans to increase renewables and lower reliance on atomic energy, said a government official who asked not to be named. The official denied a newspaper report published two days ago that a decision could be made Nov. 15 at a nuclear-power policy meeting.

Adding Value

“It is not the people who do EDF’s accounts who are going to decide the energy policy of France,” Environment Minister Philippe Martin told parliament today.

An extension of the amortization period would add value to the biggest nuclear operator by improving its earnings and cutting debt, analysts including Louis Boujard at Banco BPI SA have said.

Even as EDF seeks to operate its French reactors for 60 years, the regulatory system doesn’t allow for the government to simply extend the operating lives. The ASN carries out in-depth inspections on each reactor every 10 years, granting permission on a case-by-case basis. The regulator is also able to order the shutdown of a reactor on safety considerations.

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