The French nuclear industry wants to save time. Or at least not lose any more, which would already be a clear progress. The construction of the Flamanville EPR (Manche) – or European pressurized reactor – was to last less than five years. Pouring of the first concrete carried out in December 2007, commissioning initially expected for June 2012… before many technical setbacks which now push it back, after the last postponement, in the middle of 2024.

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The bill under consideration in the Senate from Tuesday, January 17 aims to speed up the procedures related to future constructions – in addition to a part on the operation of the current reactors. A very circumscribed text: it concerns the administrative aspect allowing the start of preparatory work (earthworks, annex buildings, development of the site), not the first concrete and the construction of the nuclear building. A text “horribly technical”agreed the Minister of Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, heard by the senators on January 11.

The executive’s legislative project is limited to future construction sites near existing power plants. In perspective, the revival of “the great civil nuclear adventure”as promised by Emmanuel Macron in February 2022. Praising the climate merits of low-carbon electricity, the Head of State expressed his desire for the country to bring six new reactors out of the ground, dits EPR 2or even eight others later, depending on the possibility, by the middle of the century.

Optimistic schedule

The electrician EDF already has in mind the sites of the three initial pairs. First Penly (Seine-Maritime), for a first commissioning planned between 2035 and 2037, according to the company’s most optimistic schedule. Then Gravelines (North), not before 2039. Then in the Rhone Valley, either the installation of Bugey or that of Tricastin, at best by 2043.

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“Let construction times [du premier béton à la mise en service] decreasing from approximately nine years for the first of the six tranches to seven and a half years for the sixth”, specifies a government document on work relating to new nuclear, at the beginning of 2022, after two external audits. Duration to be compared to that of the first EPRs, after various postponements: nine years for those of Taishan (China) and at least seventeen years for Olkiluoto (Finland), which is still awaiting its commercial start.

Keeping to deadlines remains the “most determining factor of competitiveness for our future success”, according to the new boss of EDF, Luc Rémont

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