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France may face blackouts without nuclear power

  • The head of French energy regulator CRE, Emmanuelle Wargon, has urged that all nuclear reactors in the country be restarted as it faces risks of winter blackouts.

“It is key that work resumes as soon as possible… [state-owned utility] EDF needs to have put into maintenance all its nuclear reactors,” Wargon told RMC radio on Wednesday, commenting on a strike which has halted a third of France’s reactors.

France generates roughly 70% of its electricity from a nuclear fleet of 56 reactors, all operated by EDF.

  • On Tuesday, a representative of France’s FNME trade union, Virginie Neumayer, told reporters that 20 of the reactors have been affected by the strikes and maintenance on 17 has been suspended as a result.
  • Strikes at nuclear power plants have been going on for several weeks, along with protests at refineries and petrol depots owned by oil majors TotalEnergies and ExxonMobil, causing massive disruptions in the fuel supply in the country.

    Trade unions are demanding higher salaries for workers as inflation in the country has soared above 6%. The protest movement across the energy sector comes at a time when France expects its nuclear output to hit a 30-year low this year, due to a record number of reactor outages caused by corrosion issues and planned maintenance.

On Tuesday, power grid operator RTE warned that prolonged strikes, which hamper maintenance work and the restart of nuclear reactors, would lead to “heavy consequences” for the power supply over the winter.

The functioning of the nuclear reactors was already hit by a historic drought this summer when river water levels dropped to record lows.

Header: French President Emmanuel Macron (C) presents a new two-Euro-coin marking the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union during a press conference on France assuming EU presidency, in Paris, on December 9, 2021. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / various sources / AFP)