In France, the state-owned energy company Electricite de France SA (EDF) has revised its nuclear power target downwards for the third time this year. The power supply in France is thus becoming increasingly critical. The nuclear power plants operated by EDF form the backbone of the European interconnected system. France is traditionally an electricity exporter within Europe. However, due to the failure of several reactors, France is now dependent on electricity imports from neighbouring countries.
EDF must repeatedly revise electricity generation forecast downwards
In mid-May, EDF had to correct its electricity generation forecast again. In February, EDF had already lowered its forecast for 2022 to a record low of 295 to 315 terawatt hours (TWh). At the time, the energy company referred to additional safety inspections that became necessary due to discovered damage at two reactors. At the beginning of the year, EDF was still forecasting a generation target of 300 to 330 TWh. Now EDF is revising its production downwards to 280 to 300 TWh for 2022.
In the meantime, EDF has had to take twelve of its reactors off the grid due to corrosion problems. Among them are the four most powerful reactors in the country. Justifying the new correction, deputy head Regis Clement said: “We have fine-tuned the repairs to be carried out. We need to cut open more pipes to do more inspections and more repairs.”
Experts still consider new forecast too optimistic
However, experts also consider the new forecast to be very ambitious and doubt that EDF will be able to meet this target. But already with the current forecast, France’s electricity supply is coming to a head and is dependent on electricity imports from abroad. The group has already had to issue a profit warning due to the sharp reduction in electricity generation.
Routine inspections postponed due to supply shortage
And it can become even more critical, because with every further inspection of a reactor, more defects can be discovered. Of a total of 56 nuclear reactors, only 28 are currently still connected to the grid. This means that the capacity of the reactors still in operation has fallen to around 28 gigawatts. This is the lowest value in the history of EDF. The complete nuclear park can theoretically produce 62 gigawatts. Actually, EDF would have to shut down four more reactors for routine inspection. Out of concern for the power supply, EDF has postponed these inspections until next year. The corrosion problems that have occurred primarily affect reactors of the French power plant builder Framatome.
Hot summer could cause power supply to collapse in France
But it is not only the technical problems that are bringing France’s nuclear power plants to their knees, but also the high temperatures in recent days. The company has already had to reduce the output of some reactors due to high river temperatures. This affected the Blayais nuclear power plant, which had to reduce its output to prevent the Gironde from heating up even more. If temperatures remain in the 30 degree range for a long time in summer, it is very likely that further <reactors will have to be taken off the grid due to cooling problems. At the latest then, France will have a massive problem maintaining the power supply in the country.