To decommission or not to decommission? In the next few days, the French government will announce if it will permanently decommission nuclear reactors as part of its “multi-annual energy plan” (PPE) for the years 2019-20281. This key guidance document, expected more than four months ago, will outline the trajectory of the country’s energy production and consumption within the context of its contribution to European climate efforts 2.
The delay in the presentation of this energy roadmap is due to indecision in high places concerning how to apply the law of 2015 which obliges France to reduce the nuclear share of its electricity generation to 50%. This share is extraordinarily high at present (71% in 2017), a unique figure in Europe and beyond.
To reach 50% nuclear while meeting the other targets of the 2015 energy transition law (concerning the development of energy consumption and renewable energy production), France must, as the annual Court of Auditors report of 2016 noted, eventually close between 17 and 20 of its 58 reactors – namely, those pushing forty, the lifespan of such reactors. Meanwhile, the government is listening intently to the nuclear lobby encouraging it to limit closures as much as possible, and extend the lifespan of its reactors.
According to the government document leaked yesterday, three scenarios are on the table . The first, which comes from the ministry of ecology, proposes 6 closures between 2023 and 2028, and 6 more between 2029 and 2035, thus 12 in total, in addition to the closure of Fessenheim. Elsewhere, no new site will be decided during the current presidential term. The second scenario is modelled on the claims of EDF: no additional closures before 2029, and extending the reactors’ lifespan to fifty years.
This second scenario, like the first, proposes a dozen definitive closures, but defers them to 2029-2035. As in scenario 1, there will be no decision on EPR during the current five-year term, in contrast to scenario 3, proposed by the ministry of the economy. This scenario foresees the construction of 4 new EPR units, the first two by 2034, which would require a speedy decision. In addition, only 9 reactors would be closed between 2028 and 2035.
Relative to the Court of Auditors’ estimate, these three scenarios