France vows to restart stricken nuclear reactors before winter

·3-min read
© RFI/Jan van der Made

France's Energy Transition Minister on Friday called for "collective responsibility" to avoid energy rationing this winter as she announced that France's fleet of nuclear reactors would be fully operational by the winter. The news comes as G7 countries agreed to "urgently" implement Russian oil price cap.

The French government will alleviate "part of the increase in the price of electricity", Energy Transition Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said at the end of a National Defence and Security Council meeting on energy.

"We will suppress part of the increase in the price of electricity ... We did it last year, we will do it this year."

Noting that French gas reserves were almost completely filled, she also called on the "European solidarity" of citizens to avoid rationing measures.

"The key is national mobilisation," she said. "The government is prepared, we have secured our gas supplies. They are 92 percent full."

Since the invasion into Ukraine and EU sanctions, Moscow has gradually scaled down gas exports to Europe, which relies on Russia for 40 percent of its energy supplies.

In the process Brussels has started to prepare for a possible complete cut-off. Russia's main gas company, Gazprom, announced this week the end of its deliveries to French energy company Engie.

EU energy ministers will meet again on 9 September to further discuss the energy situation. The EU Commission intends to propose to partial cap on electricity prices, to protect the most vulnerable, but also discuss incentives to reduce consumption.

Nuclear reactors

Pannier-Runacher did note that Russian gas deliveries were at their lowest level but that they were not completely cut off.

In order to help compensating for the shortfall, power company Electricité de France (EDF) plans to restart dozens of nuclear reactors currently shut down "before winter starts".

France currently has 56 nuclear power plants providing for 70 percent of its electricity. In 2014, the government had wanted to reduce nuclear's share of electricity generation to 50 percent by 2025, but this target was delayed in 2019 to 2035.

In February this year, just two weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Macron announced plans to build six new reactors, and possibly another eight later on, launching a "nuclear renaissance" by 2050.

The aim then was to be less dependent on fossil fuel in order to combat climate change.

France is the world's largest net exporter of electricity, earning over €3 billion yearly. But getting the country's nuclear fleet back in top shape before winter starts may prove a hard task.

France's nuclear plants are hampered by shut-downs and maintenance issues, leading to the temporary closure of 32 of them.

Power Magazine reported on August 4 that EDF was forced to cut power generation on some of the still functioning plants as a result of the extreme heat over the summer, causing high temperatures in river water, used to cool the plants.

Price cap on Russian oil imports

Meanwhile, G7 industrialised powers on Friday said they would "urgently" move towards the implementation of a price cap on Russian oil imports, as they sought to dial up sanctions on Moscow.

"We commit to urgently work on the finalisation and implementation of this measure," G7 finance ministers said in a statement, without specifying the cap level.

"We seek to establish a broad coalition in order to maximise effectiveness and urge all countries that still seek to import Russian oil and petroleum products to commit to doing so only at prices at or below the price cap."

(with AFP)