French nuclear energy is rising from its knees. Paris can export again

Luc Williams

According to BloombergNEF, in 2024, the French reactor fleet will boast the highest available power in at least five years.

This is a completely different situation from the one we have observed on the energy market in recent years, when prolonged outages at French power plants combined with interruptions in gas supplies in Russia reduced production capacity, which brought Europe closer to blackouts.

France is exporting energy again

The revival caused that France has resumed energy exports to its neighbors. This will help reduce the use of fossil fuels and help achieve record low levels of greenhouse gas emissions across the region.

Kesavarthiniy Savarimuthu, an analyst at BloombergNEF in London, believes that France is now a strong energy exporter, as it was before, i.e. 18 months ago, before technical outages began in many reactors. The country had a long-term reactor maintenance program aimed at “catching any leaks and cracks” and “it worked,” she said.

Renovation of the French reactor fleet

In mid-2022, the nuclear giant Electricite de France began a series of works aimed at extending the life of its nuclear power plants. By August this year, only 40 percent fleet was available and gas prices skyrocketed to more than 10 times their normal levels. Rising costs have plunged Europe into its worst energy crisis in decades, forcing governments to take drastic action to curb demand.

Due to the temporary shutdown of some reactors, France was forced to import electricity, and the entire region faced the prospect of power outages. To speed up repairs, EDF brought in additional welders from the US and Canada. Although the repairs took longer than expected, the overall operation appears to have been a success.

In 2024, reactor availability in France will be the highest since at least 2019.

In January, 79% were available in France. operational nuclear capacity, which is almost twice as much as in August 2022, and in February this number may increase to 83%. BloombergNEF forecasts show that reactor availability in 2024 will be the highest since at least 2019, with fewer repairs planned for the summer.

Nuclear energy availability in France has doubled since the crisis in 2022 / Bloomberg

The completion of work at EDF plants helped stabilize European energy prices, with French energy futures contracts for next year suffering a monthly decline of 13%. Contracts on neighboring markets showed a similar decline.

France’s return to nuclear energy has contributed to a broader energy recovery in Europe.

Europe has sufficient fuel supplies

The drive to secure alternative gas sources in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – combined with falling industrial demand, a relatively mild winter so far and high renewable energy production – means the continent now has ample fuel supplies.

Glenn Rickson, head of European energy analysis at S&P Global Commodity Analysis, believes that in addition to structurally weak consumption and high levels of gas storage coming this winter, the recovery of French nuclear power from historically low results in 2022 was one of the main factors ensuring the comfort of markets.

French electricity exports rebound. Net electricity trading in terawatt hours / Bloomberg

Energy demand is expected to remain low in the long term. Although this winter energy consumption in Europe will be 1%. higher than last year, the modest increase indicates continued consumption constraints, BloombergNEF says.


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