While the economic crisis and inflation is affecting all countries, some countries that are usually considered “developed” may be facing the worst energy crisis in their history. Among them, France, which has an aging fleet of nuclear power plants, will reluctantly have to plan power cuts to maintain service.
France: nuclear power plants that don’t help… because they are shut down
Who could believe it? France, a country that has mastered nuclear technology, has a fleet of power plants… that are shut down. So let’s clarify a little for the readers: no, in France, a nuclear power plant does not produce all the time. Indeed, some environmental laws oblige to cut off the production of electricity when the temperature at the outlet is too high and could cause damage to the fauna and flora of the river on which the plant is installed.
In the same way, a power plant must be stopped periodically for maintenance operations. So at first sight, a shutdown nuclear power plant is not necessarily a problem.
Where it hurts is when other problems occur and more plants than necessary are shut down all at the same time. And guess what? That’s what’s happening in France.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is crystallizing criticism of the government and deflecting it onto the national power company, EDF, putting pressure on the reactors to be restarted as soon as possible.
An unprecedented energy crisis with heavy consequences for the French
Indeed, of the 56 reactors in the French nuclear fleet, 32 (more than half) are shut down. Some of them are undergoing ten-year maintenance, while others are suffering from corrosion problems due to poor welding, which require heavy, long and expensive repairs.
The situation is so serious that Elisabeth Borne and the government should probably restart coal-fired power plants. On this subject, she declared on September 1, “I am really counting on EDF to ensure its restart program in the coming weeks, in the coming months, and that would avoid us having to restart a coal-fired power plant.”
The government is also considering “load shedding“, i.e. targeted and programmed electricity cuts. The plan is already in place with users, mostly professionals, who have signed a contract and would be paid to accept power cuts of up to 2 hours. This would allow the unused electricity to be redirected to other users.
In short, EDF and the French government are planning to cut off the power of some users in order to serve the others! A situation that has never been seen before. That’s how big the crisis is.
In the meantime, the government is asking the French to save energy and to lower their heating by 1 or 2 degrees! We will see in a few months if the fateful winter puts France in a catastrophic situation or not.