Ensuring the restart of shut down nuclear power plants represents the first project of the programme, which promises to be heavy, to Luc Remont, appointed this Wednesday, November 23 at the head of EDF. Half of the reactors found themselves shut down this year, in particular because of the discovery of corrosion on some of them. This unprecedented situation required long repairs, and continues to raise fears of targeted power cuts this winter.
Where we are ?
The last days, “the situation is improving, but extremely slowly », observes François-Marie Bréon, president of AFIS (French Association for Scientific Information), questioned by Marianne. « On Wednesday, we exceeded 32 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear production, which had not been observed since April. But we remain at a level much lower than what the nuclear fleet usually produced. At worst, at the same time, we were more at 43 GW,” continues the climatologist.
This morning, nuclear production exceeded 32 GW, which had not happened since mid-April. Thanks to wind and hydro which help to limit imports and to avoid burning gas.
The online returns of Belleville-2 and Cruas-3 are announced for this morning pic.twitter.com/kKyObRqmFk
— Francois-Marie Breon (@fmbreon) November 23, 2022
“Today, 23 of the 56 nuclear reactors are shut down. One of them restarted in Cruas (Ardèche) this morning, and another must leave for Belleville (Cher) in the evening. Then, the restart of six others is planned between the end of November and the beginning of December. So far, EDF has always lagged behind its far too optimistic forecasts. These announcements should therefore be taken with caution. But we can hope that these reactors can be put back into operation by the end of December.”analyzes François-Marie Bréon.
Are cuts possible?
The risk of power cuts seems to have been eliminated in the immediate future. The lack of production via nuclear power is compensated by a reduction in electricity consumption, which is not only linked to the rather mild temperatures of recent weeks. “Electricity consumption at normal temperature appears to be clearly lower than in previous years, and this should remain the case during the winter. Compared to the 2014-2019 average (reference prior to the health crisis), the drop in consumption reached 5 to 7% over the period extending from the beginning of October to mid-November.noted RTE (Electricity Transmission Network), the network operator, in its last report published on November 21.
However, this is not reassuring. The fall in consumption particularly concerns the industrial sector, forced to reduce its production due to high electricity prices. A situation that could have serious economic consequences. RTE also notes a drop in consumption for households, without being able to attribute it with any certainty to date to the government’s calls for sobriety.
And then ?
Things could go wrong in January, which usually marks the arrival of extreme cold in France. According to RTE, nuclear production should rise to 40 GW on that date, if EDF finally manages to stick to its schedule. But this would represent only 65% of the installed power, when the nuclear fleet usually produced more than 50 GW in the heart of winter. The winter will therefore be very tense and the supply of electricity subject to several uncertainties.
The first, and most crucial, is the weather, since a “A drop in temperature of one degree increases electricity consumption by 2 GW, which corresponds approximately to two nuclear reactors”, picture François-Marie Bréon. The second uncertainty is related to the scale of production from wind turbines. These ensure a production of 12 GW this Wednesday, which gives air to the electricity network. “But their production is very variable, it can almost drop to 0. So if there is a cold snap without wind, it could be very complicated”, anticipates François-Marie Bréon. Especially since imports, which currently balance the system, may not be sufficient in the event of a prolonged cold snap.