According to Morales Pedraza (2012), the development of nuclear power in France fell into four phases. During the 1960s, in line with the overall target of industrial independence and domestic technological development, indigenous designs were promoted (mainly natural uranium—gas-cooled reactors and fast breeders). However, a PWR unit (Chooz-A) was built jointly with Belgium as well as a heavy water reactor in Brittany (Brennilis). International developments in the nuclear industry led in the late sixties to the recognition that the French reactor designs could not compete with light water reactors. In 1969, the decision was made to build LWRs under license, while restructuring the domestic industry to improve competitiveness. Subsequently, the French government envisaged a construction program of one or two PWRs a year.
From 1974 to 1981, emphasis was put on an adaptation of the WESTINGHOUSE design for the development of a French nuclear power reactor. The nuclear program accelerated the pace with the 1970s oil crisis. The unit-capacity of French reactors increased from 900 to 1,300 MWe and later to 1,500 MWe. France developed and implemented, in parallel with the nuclear power plant program, a strong domestic fuel cycle industry, built upon the infrastructure originally established by CEA.
In 1981, FRAMATOME terminated its license with WESTINGHOUSE and negotiated a new agreement, giving greater autonomy. FRAMATOME developed a wide range of servicing expertise and capabilities in reactor operation and maintenance services. In the same year, France had to adapt its energy policy to a lower than expected economic growth, together with the occurrence of over-capac- ity in the national electricity supply system. The achievement of the 1,450 MWe N4 model was the landmark for a totally autonomous French reactor design.
In 2000, a new period for the French nuclear industry began. FRAMATOME merged with the nuclear activities of SIEMENS. It resulted into FRAMATOME Advanced Nuclear Power, which is integrated into the AREVA group and is now called AREVA NP since 2005. AREVA holds 66 % and SIEMENS 34 %. In 2006, the construction of a 1,600 MW European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), designed by AREVA NC, was started in Olkiluoto (Finland). It was followed by another one in Flamanville (France) in 2007. In that year, the construction of the first Generation IV reactor, ASTRID, in Marcoule, was decided and planned for 2020. In 2013, French total net electricity generation was 550,900 GWh and from this amount 403,700 GWh was generated by the 58 nuclear power reactors operating in the country; this represents 73.28 % of the total electricity generated in the country in 2013. The total nuclear capacity installed in 2012 in the country amounts to 63,130 MW. The average power plant availability amounted to 79.7 %. The total electricity con- sumption in 2012 was 472 TWh; this represents 7,700 kWh per person.
Energy Policy in France
According to Morales Pedraza (2012), after the end of the World War II, France’s economic and social development relied mainly on the deployment of energyintensive industries. Until the 1970s, domestic coal and hydropower resources were the main energy sources used to satisfy the increasing energy needs of the country. However, French domestic fossil fuel resources were limited and its extraction very costly and, for this reason, the country had to rely heavily on imports for its energy supply. By 1973, the imports were covering more than 75 % of national energy consumption, compared to 38 % in 1960. After the 1970s oil crisis, the country was in need of better energy independence. At that time, the implementation of a large nuclear power program became a major element of France’s energy policy, including also energy saving measures, efficiency improvement, and research and development in the field of renewable energies. The share of nuclear power in primary energy supply increased from less than 2 % in the late 1970s to about one third in the mid-1990s and reached 42 % in 2003. In 2014, this share reached 73.28 %; this represented an increase of 36.64-fold with respect to the share reached in the 1970s.
The main macro-economic impacts of France’s energy policy are the following:
• Drastic improvement in the energy trade balance;
• Stabilization of domestic energy prices at a rather low level;
• Increase competitiveness of French companies on international markets;
• Deployment of a nuclear industry covering nuclear power reactor construction and the whole nuclear fuel cycle.
Increased awareness of environmental constraints is reflected in the French energy mix, aiming to reduce the negative impacts of energy production on health and the environment. In 1999, a parliamentary debate reaffirmed the three following main objectives of the French energy policy:
• Security of supply;
• Respect for the environment (especially greenhouse gases);
• Proper attention to radioactive waste management.
However, taking into account the energy situation in the country faced until 2004, the main objectives of the French energy policy were changed. The new objectives are now the following:
• To optimize the utilization of existing equipment, i.e., nuclear power plants and fuel cycle facilities;
• Design and implement a policy with regard to final disposal of high-level radio-active waste;
• Develop the next generation of nuclear power reactors, improving the use of natural uranium, and minimizing waste production (IAEA Country File 2004).
Two main events regarding energy policy happened in 2005–2006: The adoption of the 2005-781 Law on Energy, and the release of the report on investments “PPI” as stipulated in the Law 2000-108 on modernization and development of the public electricity service. Law 2005-781 “Energy Orientation Law” was adopted by the parliament on July 13, 2005. It indicates the four new main goals of the French energy policy:
• Contributing to energy independence and guaranteeing the security of supply;
• Ensuring a competitive price of energy;
• Preserving human health and the environment;
• Guaranteeing the social and territorial cohesion.
According to IAEA sources, to reach these goals, four main paths are followed:
• Controlling energy demand (by tax incentives, certification, etc.);
• Diversifying the energy portfolio; the law stipulates that the state may have a Generation IV reactor by 2015 in order to eventually replace French nuclear power plants, and that 10 % of energy needs may be satisfied with renewables by 2010. The site of Flamanville was chosen by EdF in March 2006 to host the demonstrator EPR, after the National Commission of Public Debate organized a debate on the subject from October 2005 to February 2006 and released a report on April 2006;
• Developing research and innovation in the energy sector; for this purpose, two
new agencies, the National Agency for Research—ANR—and the Industrial Innovation Agency—AII—have been created;
• Ensuring the availability of transportation and storage facilities to respond to the country’s needs.
Also, an important stipulation of the law is that greenhouse gas emissions must be four times less by 2050. Law 2000-108 stipulates that a report on medium-term
power generation capacity investments planning must be prepared by the Ministry of Energy. The last report on power investment planning was officially released by the government in 2008 and concerns the period 2009–2020. It identifies the following evolutions:
• Energy savings may be at the heart of any energy scenario, respecting Law 2005-781 on energy;
• A share of renewable energy sources (including hydro) of 23 % are targeted
for 2020, mainly with onshore and offshore wind energy. A total of 25 GWe by 2020 of wind capacity are targeted. Hydropower may at least be maintained at its current level and could be developed until it produces 7 TWh more at most. Biomass may be developed up to a level of 2.3 TWh;
• To answer the evolution of the reglementary framework on thermal capacities over the period 2009–2020 that may lead to the shutdown of more than half the coal-fired power plant capacity, a total of 5.2 GW of thermal power plants may be constructed (2.6 GW in semi-base load and 2.6 GW in peak load) by 2015, among which 0.8 GW by 2009. Also, 2.6 GW of old oil-fueled power plants may be modernized by EdF to re-enter into operation.
In the wake of successive legislations, the role of public authorities has changed. The European directives on electricity market liberalization have been implemented in French legislation through Law No. 2000-108 of February 10, 2000. This law states in its first article: “The purpose of the public electricity service is to guarantee electricity supplies throughout the country, having due regard to general interest. In the context of the energy policy, the public electricity service con- tributes to the independence and security of supply, air quality and combating the greenhouse effect, optimum management and development of national resources, control of demand for energy, economic competitiveness and control of technical choices for the future, as well as efficiency in energy use. It furthers social cohesion, by ensuring the universal right to electricity, contributes to combating exclusion, a balanced spatial development, having due regard to the environment, research and technological progress as well as defense and public order. The public electricity service shall be organized by the state and the local authorities or their public cooperation establishments, each for its part.”
It follows from this article that the government retains the responsibility of establishing objectives regarding the security of energy supply or regional planning. In addition, it remains responsible for defining and enforcing adherence to the rules within which the various market players must act. Public authorities retain the traditional governmental activities such as preparation and development of regulations, energy taxation, public service obligations, personnel and installation safety, environment protection, in particular implementation of the European directives regarding greenhouse gas emissions and the share of renewable energies in electricity production. They also keep the general responsibility of insuring long-term supply by supporting research and development efforts when private companies would not engage by themselves. In addition, through the procedure of call for bids or the authorization required for the new production plants (Decree No. 2000-877 of September 7, 2000), the government retains the ability to set conditions for new power units, including the energetic, technical, economic, financial, and geographical characteristics of the installation (for instance regarding greenhouse gas emis- sions or other pollutants, long-term supply stability, or use of domestic energy resources), and thus it influences the choice of the energy sources.
Regarding public service obligations, Law no. 2000-108 has created a specific contribution intended for compensating the excess costs attributable to public service obligations (purchase obligation for green electricity, power production in non-connected zones such as overseas departments, etc.). This fund is supplied by the different electricity producers established in the French territory, including auto-producers as well as by the electricity importers.
However, and despite of the achievement reached by France in the use of nuclear energy for the generation of electricity, the French parliament took the decision, submitted by the government, to reduce the participation of nuclear energy in the energy mix of the country from the current level of 73.28 % reached in 2013 to 50 % by 2025. On the other hand, and despite the decision adopted by the French parliament, in the long-term energy-policy makers should pay particular attention to the development of new nuclear technologies, including research in high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, super-critical water-cooled reactors, and designs using liquid sodium or lead (or lead alloys) as a coolant, with the objective of increasing further the level of safety of the new nuclear power reactors designs to be used in the country during the coming years.
Nuclear Power Reactors in Operation in France
In France, a total of 58 nuclear power reactors were in operation in 2014. The list of nuclear power reactors in operation in France is shown in Table 8.14.
In Table 8.15, the number of nuclear power reactors under construction in France in 2014 is shown.
The estimated cost of the new unit under construction at Flamanville is reported to have raised €1 billion over the original budget of €4 billion, and the intended start of operations has been postponed to an unspecified day.
Until 2014, a total of 13 experimental and nuclear power reactors have been decommissioned in France, nine of them first-generation gas-cooled, graphite- moderated types and six of them being very similar to the UK Magnox type. There are well-developed plans for dismantling these reactors (which have been shut- down since 1990 or before). However, progress awaits the availability of sites for disposing of the intermediate-level wastes and the alpha-contaminated graphite from the early gas-cooled reactors. At least one of these, Marcoule G2, has been fully dismantled. The other four include the 1,200 MWe Super-Phenix fast reactor, the veteran 233 MWe Phenix fast reactor, the 1966 prototype 305 MWe PWR at Chooz, and an experimental 70 MWe GCHWR at Brennilis. A license was issued for dismantling Brennilis in 2006 and for Chooz-A in 2007. The total net nuclear capacity retired from the grid was 4,210 MW.
In January 2009, President Sarkozy announced that EdF would build a second 1,650 MW EPR, at Penly, near Dieppe, in Normandy. Like Flamanville, it has two 1,300 MW units now operating, and room for two more. GdF-Suez originally planned to hold a 25 % stake in it, TOTAL will hold 8.3 %, and ENEL is expected to take up 8 % or its full 12.5 % entitlement. Germany’s E.ON is considering tak- ing an 8 % stake. EdF may sell down its share to 50 %. The French government owns 85 % of EdF, 35.7 % of GdF-Suez, and (directly) 88 % of AREVA, who would build the unit in case its construction is approved. A public debate on the project concluded in 2010, but nuclear safety authority did not accept EdF’s appli- cation to build the unit, sending it back for further work before the application is submitted to a local public inquiry. However, EdF then halted plans for the Penly 3 unit and said that it did not intend to build more nuclear capacity in France for operation before 2025 (France WNA 2014).
To carry out decommissioning activities, EdF puts aside €0.14 cents per kWh for decommissioning and at the end of 2004 it carried provisions of €9.9 billion for this. According to WNA (2014), by 2010, it will have fully funded the even- tual decommissioning of its nuclear power plants (from 2035). Early in 2006, it held €25 billion segregated for this purpose and is on track for €35 billion in 2010. AREVA has dedicated assets already provided at the level of its future liabilities. In April 2008, the French nuclear safety authority issued a draft policy on decommissioning, which proposes that French nuclear installation licensees adopt “immediate dismantling strategies” rather than safe storage followed by much later dismantling. The policy foresees broad public information in connection with the decommissioning process.
In January 2012, France’s Court of Audit released a report on the costs of nuclear power in the country. It included a section on decommissioning and said that the future costs of decommissioning all of France’s nuclear facilities (including reactors, research facilities and fuel cycle plants) and disposing of radioac- tive wastes were estimated to be €79.4 billion. The cost of demolishing facilities came to €31.9 billion, including €18.4 billion for dismantling EdF’s 58 operating reactors. The costs of managing used fuel were put at €14.8 billion, while waste disposal will cost €28.4 billion. However, the court noted that these future cost estimates are tentative because of the lack of firm decommissioning costs and the lack of final disposal plans. A massive increase in future costs would have a sig- nificant, but limited impact on the annual cost of electricity production.
The Eurodif enrichment plant, closed down in mid-June 2012, will be decommissioned from 2015, after residual uranium is recovered from it. Some 130,000 tons of steel will be recycled, subject to regulatory approval from 2017. The decommissioning cost is put at €800 million.
Finally, until 2014, the well-established 900 MWe PWR design was sold to several export markets. In total eight units have been sold in the following countries: South Africa (2), South Korea (2), and China (4). There are two 900 MWe French reactors operating at Koeberg, near Cape Town in South Africa, two at Hanul/Ulchin in South Korea, and four at Daya Bay/Ling Ao in China, near Hong Kong. The deal with Iran (2 units) collapsed politically in 1979 and the engineer- ing components retained in France were built at Gravelines. China’s CPR-1000 design is based on the four French M310 units.
Generation of Electricity Using Nuclear Energy
France has the highest proportion of electricity generated by nuclear power reactors of any country in the world. Fifty-seven of the total nuclear power reactors operat- ing in the country are PWR.15 This amount represents 98.3 % of the total nuclear
power reactors operating in France. Out of this total, 34 units have 900 MWe of capacity; 20 units have 1,300 MWe of capacity, and four units 1,450 MWe of capacity. All of these nuclear power reactors were constructed by the French manufacturer FRAMATOME. France has one fast breeder reactor (Phoenix) operated by EdF with a capacity of 130 MWe.16 France has also 14 nuclear research reactors of various types and sizes, all constructed between 1959 and 1980.
In 2013, the annual electrical power production and the electrical nuclear power production in France are shown in Table 8.16.
The evolution of the generation of electricity using nuclear energy in France during the period 2008–2012 is shown in Fig. 8.21.
According to Fig. 8.21, the generation of electricity using nuclear energy in France during the period 2008–2012 decreased 2.3 %. It is expected that the generation of electricity in the country using this type of energy source will continue decreasing during the coming years, as a result of the decision of the government and parliament of France to reduce the participation of nuclear energy in the energy mix of the country to up 50 % by 2025.
It is important to highlight that a few years ago France was a net electricity importer. Due to the introduction of its nuclear power program, France is now a net electricity exporter. Over the last decade, France has exported between 60 and 70 billion kWh net each year to neighboring countries and EdF expects exports to continue at the level of 65–70 billion kWh per year in the future. The nuclear power production exported to other countries, such as Italy, Portugal, Belgium, and the UK reached almost 20 % of the total electricity generated by this type of energy. At the same time, France has exported its PWR reactor technology to Belgium, South Africa, South Korea, and China. There are two 900 MWe French reactors operating at Koeberg, near Cape Town in South Africa, two units at Ulchin in South Korea, and four units at Daya Bay and Lingao in China, near Hong Kong (Schneider et al. 2014).
It is also important to stress the following: France has achieved a high degree of standardization in several of its nuclear power reactors currently in operation. The level of standardization already achieved in the construction of the French nuclear power reactors is the highest in the world.
The location of the nuclear power plants operating in France is shown in Fig. 8.24.
The Public Opinion
According to Morales Pedraza (2012), the French nuclear program began in the second half of 1950s. The beginning of this program caused widespread large- scale and occasionally violent demonstrations, leading to the death of a protester
on at least one occasion. The magnitude of these demonstrations increase in the 1970s and the burst of nuclear power plant construction were ended in the middle of the 1980s. In the 1990s, only one nuclear power plant initiated its construction. Since then the relatively slow build rate of additional nuclear power reactors has diminished the focus of public concern and the number and magnitude of the dem- onstrations against the use of nuclear energy for the generation of electricity in the country. However, this does not mean that the opposition to nuclear power in France does not remain strong. In 2007, France started the construction of an EPR unit in Flamanville, which is expected to conclude in 2016.
From time to time demonstrations against the use of nuclear energy for electricity production have been organized in the country. In 2006, for example, Greenpeace activists surrounded and chained themselves to a truck transporting plutonium from the La Hague, a nuclear recycling facility located in this region, to an undisclosed burial site. This action stopped the transfer of these fissionable materials over French town. French environmentalists say the economic benefits of nuclear energy are far out- weighed by the dangers of its by-products, particularly for the high-level radioactive wastes it generates, which have to be stored in special facilities for long period. At the same time, French environmentalist also says that nuclear facilities are potential targets for terrorist groups putting in danger the life of the people living near the facilities.
In 2003, a poll had shown that 67 % of people thought that environmental protection was the single most important energy policy goal. However, 58 % thought that nuclear power caused climate change while only 46 % thought that coal burning did so. The debate was to prepare the way for defining the energy mix for the next 30 years in the context of sustainable development at a European and at global levels. But the French government and the powerful nuclear lobby are firm in their position regarding the use of nuclear energy for electricity generation in the future in order to maintain the current energy independence of France.
In October 2007, President Sarkozy promised “that France was not going to replace its existing nuclear power plants in its entirety and, for this reason, in the future no more than 60 % of France’s electricity will be produced using nuclear energy,” well down on the level reached in 2013 that was 73.28 %. The statement of the President was made with the purpose of reducing the tension surrounded the decision of the French government to continue using nuclear energy for the production of electricity in the future, and to replace the current nuclear power reactors with a new generation of reactors in the coming years. In 2014, the French parliament approved a new energy policy by which it decided to reduce the participation of nuclear energy in the country’s energy mix to up 50 %.
A poll of 20,790 respondents was conducted between July 15 and November 4, 2008, by WorldPublicOpinion.org, a collaborative research project involving research centers from around the world and managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. As a result of this poll carried out in France, a total of 4 in 10 (40 %) agree with placing less emphasis on building new nuclear power reactors in the future, while 26 % say there should be more nuclear power reactors built to face the foresee increase in the demand of energy.
A Eurobarometer Special Report on Energy Technologies give an insight into the issues that people see as important and the relative positioning of energy issues in this overall picture. Nuclear energy was spontaneously mentioned by just 8 % of people in total, although more by the citizens of Sweden (30 %) and France (22 %), which were also the countries where the low numbers of people (18 %) mentioned energy prices. Half of Sweden’s electricity supply comes from nuclear and in France, four-fifths. It should be noted that this 8 % of respondents said “nuclear energy” rather than, for example, “concerns over nuclear energy.” Similarly, 14 % said “renewable energy sources” and 4 % said “gas.” In almost every country, energy prices were spontaneously mentioned most often as the first thing associated with energy issues.
Despite of the French demonstrations carried out against the use of nuclear energy for electricity generation in the country in the past, and the result of the above-men- tioned pools, it is important to note that now the majority of the French public opinion is either in favor of using nuclear energy for electricity generation or at least is not firmly against the use of this type of energy for this purpose in the future.
According to Morales Pedraza (2012), after years of inactivity in the construction of nuclear power reactors in the country, in May 2006, the EdF Board approved the construction of a 1,650 MW EPR unit at Flamanville, Normandy. This is
going to be the second EPR nuclear power reactor to be built in Europe. The construction works started on December 2007 and it is expected to be finished by 2016. The overnight capital cost is expected to be €3.3 billion and power from it €4.6 cents per kWh—about the same as from new combined-cycle gas turbine at current gas prices and with no carbon emission charge.
In August 2005, EdF announced that it plans to replace its 58 present reactors with EPR nuclear reactors from 2020, at the rate of about one 1,650 MW unit per year. It would require 40 of these types of reactors to reach present capacity. In February 2014, EdF gave to the French parliament a breakdown of its €55 billion reactor life extension program, mostly to be completed by 2025. This includes spending €15 billion replacing heavy components within its fleet of 58 units, €10 billion on post-Fukushima Daiichi modifications, and €10 billion to boost safety against external events. It pointed out that there are only two parts of a nuclear power reactor that cannot be replaced, the reactor pressure vessel and the reactor containment building. The rest of the components have a normal life span of 25–35 years and require renovation or replacement. The French nuclear regulatory authority said it would evaluate life extensions on the basis of Generation III criteria, regardless of when particular reactors were built. In the light of operating experience gained, EdF uprated its four Chooz and Civaux N4 reactors from 1,455 to 1,500 MWe each in 2003. Over 2008–2010, EdF plans to uprate five of its 900 MWe reactors by 3 %. Then in 2007, EdF announced that the twenty 1,300 MWe reactors would be uprated some 7 % from 2015, within existing license limits, and adding about 15 TWh per year to output18 (WNA France 2014).
However, in January 2006, the President of France announced that the CEA “was to embark upon designing a prototype of the new Generation IV system to be operat- ing in 2020, bringing forward the timeline for this by some five years.” This decision could delay the ambitious French nuclear power program mentioned above.
France has been pursuing the following three Generation IV system technologies:
• Gas-cooled fast reactor;
• Sodium-cooled fast reactor;
• Very high temperature reactor (gas-cooled).
While AREVA has been working on the last two types of Generation IV systems, the main interest in the very high temperature reactor has been in the USA, as well as South Africa and China. CEA interest in the fast breeder reactors is on the basis that they will produce less waste and will better exploit uranium resources, including the 220,000 tons of depleted uranium and some reprocessed uranium stock- piled in France.
On December 2006, the Atomic Energy Committee decided to proceed with a Generation IV sodium-cooled fast reactor prototype expected to start up aimed for 2020. A new generation of sodium-cooled fast reactor with innovations intended to improve the competitiveness and the safety of this reactor type is the reference approach for this prototype. A gas-cooled fast reactor design is to be developed in parallel as an alternative option. The prototype will also have the mission of demonstrating advanced recycling modes intended to improve the ultimate high- level and long-lived waste to be disposed of. The objective is to have one type of competitive fast reactor technology ready for industrial deployment in France and for export after 2035–2040. The prototype, possibly built near Phenix at Marcoule, will be 250 to 800 MWe and is expected to cost between €1.5 and €2 billion (France WANO 2007).
EdF SA said, in November 2008, that “it will invest up to €50 billion, with its partners over the next 12 years to build next-generation of nuclear power reactors in Europe, the USA and China.” It also said that “its share of the investment would run to between €12 billion and €20 billion by 2020.” EdF expects 140 GWe of new nuclear capacity to be built around the world by 2020, on top of the 370 GWe already in operation. Most of the new capacity is going to be built in China, India and other Asian countries.
France has for a long time to put its trust in nuclear technology for electricity generation in the country. France also has a national champion nuclear contractor and technology provider. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the French reaction to the situation in Fukushima Daiichi has been less dramatic than that in Germany. In France, the emphasis of comments from the nuclear safety regulator and from the French President has been on the need to review and upgrade safety procedures and to re- evaluate the potential effects of natural disasters on nuclear safety, particularly the effects of multiple or combination disasters such as occurred at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The President has called for greater coordination of learning from the Japanese crisis through the IAEA, and this call may also be reflected in the EC’s proposal to establish “stress tests” according to common EU standards for nuclear power plants in the EU and neighboring states. France has indicated that any power plants that fail to pass these stress tests should be closed.
Finally, it is important to highlight the following: As a result of the complementary safety assessment conducted in France after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, ASN considered that the facilities examined offer a sufficient level of safety, requiring no immediate shutdown of facilities. At the same time, ASN considered that the continued operation of the facilities requires that their robustness to extreme situations needed to be reinforced. The main requirements are given as follows:
• To reinforce the protection of nuclear power plants against external hazards (earthquake, flooding, etc.);
• To reinforce water and electricity supply;
• To limit the radioactive releases in the event of a severe reactor accident (no sig- nificant and long-term contamination);
• To reinforce crisis management at the plant and at national level (human and
The key additional measures in France are given below:
• To identify and establish a “hard core” approach to material and organizational meas- ures designed to ensure control of the basic safety functions in extreme situations;
• To create a Nuclear Rapid Response Force that will be able to intervene within 24 h to support operational teams.
A significant part of these measures was already considered by EdF within the framework of the long-term operations, but will be brought forward. The total investment is estimated at €118.2 billion:
• Construction: €83.2 billion;
• Financial interest: €12.8 billion;
• Cost of decommissioning: €18.4 billion;
• Cost of last cores: €3.8 billion (OECD 2012).