The mysterious French nuclear phaseout plan | RenewEconomy

The mysterious French nuclear phaseout plan

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France’s plan to reduce the share in nuclear from 75 to 50% of power supply is as unlikely as German automotive firms producing clean cars.

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Renewables International

francenuclear-570x481France plans to reduce the share in nuclear from 75 to 50% of power supply. But don’t hold your breath; it is unlikely as German automotive firms producing clean cars. Recent comments by the country’s Environmental Minister Ségolène Royal show how politically confused the issue is. Media reports about her comments hardly help clear up the matter.

This month, Royal announced a plan to shut down France’s oldest nuclear plant, Fessenheim, one reactor at a time (it has two). The deal has always been a swap – when the EPR reactor in Flamanville goes into operation, Fessenheim will close. The problem with this calculation is that the new reactor will have a nameplate capacity of 1.65 GW to replace the 1.8 GW that closes – hardly a 33 percent reduction in line with the national plan. Royal reiterated that plan this month (report in French). As she puts it (in French), when Flamanville opens, Fessenheim has to close. This kind of swapping is an indication that France wants to shrink the share of nuclear power not by reducing nuclear power production, but by increasing power consumption significantly.

The problem is that the new French EPR has now been pushed back to at least 2018 and may never be finished at all. Now, German weekly Die Zeit reports that Royal now says in a conversation with the paper (in German) that Fessenheim will “start closing” in 2016 and not wait until 2018. In the comments section, German readers wonder what an “incremental closure” means; unfortunately, the paper does not explain that there are two reactors in Fessenheim, which is located just a few hundred meters from the German border.

In the conversation, Royal also criticizes the German nuclear phaseout for “creating new problems. It now has to use more coal power.” The newspaper does not correct her or inform readers that coal power is down since 2011. The chart below shows the figures up to the end of 2014, and the slump in coal consumption continues in 2015.


Otherwise, Royal says she is open to renewables: “If we manage to build a battery that can store solar energy, the revolution will be complete. We have to make those investments now.” A few points on that:

  • Storage will only make the transition more expensive, so we need to reduce the amount of storage to the lowest level possible.
  • We will not need to store solar, but everything.
  • Batteries are already available for hourly storage, and P2G is the solution for seasonal storage. Both will become less expensive as deployment brings about the usual innovations.

Otherwise, it seems that the French take Angela Merkel to be Barack Obama (something the Germans do not do). In this conversation (in French) with Royal, the TV moderator asks her if Frances lack someone like Merkel who can bring the country together, in this case on the issue of refugees. In fact, young Germans have coined the new verb merkeln to mean “not saying anything when people expect you to say something.” In the refugee crisis, the German public stepped up to the plate while Merkel remained so conspicuously silent on the issue that German media even began commenting on the silence (report in German). And of course, Merkel’s coalition came to the grassroots Energiewende movement quite late.

Source: Renewables International. Reproduced with permission.

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  1. Jacob 5 years ago

    Strange how Germany is a net exporter of electricity while retail power prices are very high.

    • nakedChimp 5 years ago

      What’s retail to do with wholesale?

      Also… Germany sells power when there is demand somewhere else that needs to be delivered – for example in France – and get’s a lot of money for it. And at other times it imports power, when it’s cheaper than burning lignite/coal/etc.. locally. Not really Germany’s problem that the French did chose inflexible nuclear for 75% of their power plants 😉

      • Jacob 5 years ago

        You mean “to France”.

        I think most Germans do not live in a big city and can install solar panels + batteries to go off-grid.

        Germany does not have a property bubble but maybe it has a grid bubble.

        • Mike Dill 5 years ago

          The percentage of the populations in the big cities is roughly the same for the US, Europe and AUS.

          Germany may have a grid problem, as more wind is produced in the north, and the industrial zone is in the south. Also, they have power transport limitations to and from France and Poland, similar to the issues across NSW to SA and WA. This limits what they can ‘trade’.

          • Jacob 5 years ago

            London has 20 million people.

            In AUS most people live in VIC and NSW.

      • Mike Dill 5 years ago

        Germany is also pragmatic enough to buy electricity from France when the french decide to keep the reactors running, even when there is oversupply, and the wholesale prices go negative.

      • Russ Finley 5 years ago

        Not really Germany’s problem that the French did chose inflexible nuclear for 75% of their power plants 😉

        …their carbon emissions from electricity are vastly lower than Germany’s. I suppose you can call solar and wind flexible, but most call it non-dispatchable intermittent ; )

  2. TimS 5 years ago

    Nuclear is safer than solar, wind and hydro.
    Death/TWh: Solar 0.44 , Wind 0.15, Hydro 0.10, Nuclear 0.04

    “There is an argument, however, that solar power may ultimately be safer than coal-fired generation because of the reduction in pollution. Ironically enough, however, solar power is far more dangerous than nuclear, even in a year when an accident like the disaster at Fukushima occurs.”
    “Nuclear power kills fewer people than solar per unit of electricity, says University College London Professor Tim Stone”

  3. Miles Harding 5 years ago

    Any electricity authority that is predicting skyrocketing demand is not to be trusted in any of their statements.

    This looks like less of a ‘plan’ and more of a natural consequence of having staked France’s on nuclear in the 1960s. The necessity of decommissioning aging reactors and high cost of new reactors is forcing a downsizing of the nuclear fleet. It is more likely that France simply can’t afford nuclear now.

  4. Jamie Clemons 5 years ago

    France will soon be buying clean electricity from Germany.

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