France is facing a relatively unique energy crisis when compared to other countries in Europe. The country is not heavily dependent on natural gas, Russian or otherwise, getting most of its energy supplies from nuclear power, which generates 70 percent of the country’s electricity. However, Paris has been forced to shut down many French reactors, as a recent report warned Mr Macron of significant corrosion safety problems in EDF nuclear power plants in France as cracks were detected in some nuclear reactors.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Bernard Laponche, the co-author of this study warned that in many of these reactors, cracks to cooling systems could cause devastating accidents.
He said: “If the defects are detected in or near the welds, or near the junction between these and the primary cooling circuit cause a breach in the cooling system with an important loss of water, this can lead to the partial or total melting of the fuel assemblies in the reactor core.
“That means the possibility of a Three Mile Island or a Fukushima-type accident.”
As a result of these corrosion problems, four 1500 MW, seven 1300 MW and one 900 MW reactors are shut down.
Meanwhile, engineers are working on fixing segments of the cooling circuits where the cracks were identified.
Dr Laponche warned that all other reactors will likely be checked by for these issues within the next year.
If further evidence of cracks are found, the corresponding part of the reactor will be removed and replaced, in a procedure that Dr Laponche estimates could take a year.
He added: “This means that a large part of the EDF nuclear fleet will be gradually shut down.
“Next winter, France will reopen coal and gas plants. But the country has very few of them and it will have to import a maximum of electricity from abroad.
“Important efforts will be necessary to reduce electricity consumption, particularly at the winter peak (due in particular to a high proportion of electrical heating).”
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Last week, the heads of France’s major energy companies penned a letter, issuing a dire warning about the energy crisis, urging individuals and businesses to limit power consumption immediately.
They wrote: “We need to work collectively to reduce our consumption in order to regain room to manoeuvre.
“Taking action as soon as this summer will allow us to be better prepared at the start of next winter, notably for preserving our gas reserves.”
The news of cracks in EDF reactors in France could also spell danger for the energy company’s nuclear projects in the UK, Dr Laponche warned.
He continued: “Although all the EPRs reactors are shut (Olkiluoto and Taishan) or not yet functioning (Flamanville 3 in France), there is a high probability that the same problem does exist on these reactors, including those at Hinkley Point.
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“EDF should be questioned on this point.”
EDF is currently building the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset and was previously set to come online in 2026, but has since been delayed due to Covid-19.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Paul Dorfman, an associate Fellow at SPRU University of Sussex, who was not involved in the study criticised EDF and the French nuclear fleet as whole saying: “The French nuclear corporation, EDF, runs the UK nuclear reactor fleet, is building at Hinkley Point C and wants to build at Sizewell C.
“But EDF is in a parlous financial state, with huge debts, and all the builds of its flagship EPR reactor have had huge cost and time over-runs – not a good look.
!As Lord Deben, Chair of UK Parliamentary Committee on Climate Change has just said: ‘The nuclear industry doesn’t deliver on time and doesn’t deliver to budget…. So there’s a real concern about how qualified (EDF) are to do these things.’
Express.co.uk has reached out to EDF for comments on the findings of the report.