ISSN 2330-717X

France: EDF Faces €100 Billion Reactor Upgrade Bill


French utility EDF will need to spend some €100 billion ($113 billion) on upgrading its fleet of 58 nuclear power reactors by 2030, the country’s state audit office has said. The upgrades are needed to meet new safety requirements and to extend the lives of the units beyond 40 years.

EDF announced its Grand Carénage life extension program for the existing fleet in France in 2011. Under this investment program, the company planned to spend around €55 billion on upgrading its plants to improve their performance and enable their continued operation. The program also includes safety upgrades in response to the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan.

In its 2016 annual public report, released yesterday, the Cour des Comptes (Court of Audit) said it estimates that almost double this amount would have to be spent by 2030.

However, the court said that “both assessments are consistent”. It noted that whilst its estimate covers an additional five year period, EDF’s figure is solely for the amount of planned investment and, unlike its own, does not include operating costs. The court said it estimates investments totalling €74.73 billion are required between 2014 and 2030 and that operating costs during that period will come to about €25.16 billion.

The court said, “Despite uncertainties identified to date, estimated at approximately €13.3 billion, the effects of this program on the production cost of nuclear electricity are limited.”

It also noted that implementation of France’s energy transition law, which calls for France’s reliance on nuclear energy to be reduced to 50% of power generation by 2025, “is likely to challenge the planned investments and force the company to close a third of its reactors”. This, it said, will have “important consequences in terms of jobs” and could result in “compensation supported by the state”.

“Only a very significant increase in electricity consumption or exports of power could limit the number of shutdowns, but experts are not forecasting this to happen,” the court said.

The audit office said that, despite these “major challenges” for EDF and the state, “no economic evaluation of the potential consequences have been conducted before the publication of the law,” the audit office said. This assessment should be carried out during the preparation of the multiannual energy program, it suggests.

In January 2012, the Cour des Comptes said that investing in new nuclear generating capacity or any other form of energy would be too expensive and come online too late. Extending the operating lives of its existing nuclear power reactors would be its best option.

French power reactors were originally only licensed to operate for 30 years, but they are now subject to a ten-year review to allow for their continued operation. French nuclear regulators have said they had found no generic elements that would compromise the safety of the country’s reactors over a 40-year operating life.

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