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Strikes hit French nuclear output, disrupt EDF maintenance plans

By Forrest Crellin, March 24, 2023

PARIS, March 24 (Reuters) – Strikes in France are impacting maintenance plans at EDF’s (EDF.PA) nuclear plants, curbing production just as the utility hoped to rebound from a 34-year output low last year.

At least 14 nuclear reactors in EDF’s fleet of 56 have suffered some delay affecting their maintenance plans, data from the CGT union showed.

France is witnessing widespread industrial action sparked by planned government policy changes including a move to raise the retirement age by two years.

For EDF that has meant nuclear power output in 2023 even lower than last year when it had swathes of reactors offline for repairs and checks for stress corrosion cracks.

Those factors compounded a backlog in regular maintenance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday the average hourly nuclear availability until the end of the year was down by around 4% to 44 gigawatts (GW) from 46 GW in January when the strikes began, ICIS analysis showed.

The impact is expected to be more acute in the summer, with availability to June dropping by around 9% to 39 GW from 43 GW, they added.

EDF declined to comment on the impact of the strikes on its maintenance plans.

If average availability drops by another 8 GW this year, EDF’s minimum production target of 300 terawatt-hours (TWh) will become challenging, Refinitiv analyst Nathalie Gerl said.

Refinitiv estimates EDF will achieve production of 296 TWh this year.

The current reduction in availability has so far equated to around a 1% cut to generation for the full year, or 3 to 4 TWh, ICIS data showed.

CGT spokeswoman Virginie Neumayer said EDF’s production targets were “ambitious or even very optimistic” noting they required a vast staff recruitment plan to deal with stress corrosion found in its reactors in late 2021.

“The disorganisation generated by schedule shifts is therefore complex to manage and will be felt over time,” she said.

French nuclear safety watchdog ASN requested EDF revise its maintenance program due to new cracks discovered this month in some reactors.

The French first-quarter 2024 baseload power contract, an indication of market confidence in power supply through the end of next winter, has risen more than 30% in the last two weeks after the latest cracks were discovered and the maintenance delays started.


March 25, 2023 - Posted by | employment, France

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