Country profile: France

Summary figures for 2012

The following information is from the NEA publication Nuclear Energy Data, the annual compilation of official statistics and country reports on nuclear energy in OECD member countries.

Number of nuclear power plants connected to the grid
Nuclear electricity generation
(net TWh) 2011
Nuclear percentage of total electricity supply
OECD Europe
1 884.0

Country report

As of 31 December 2012, France's installed nuclear capacity consisted of 58 pressurised water reactors (34 x 900 MWe units, 20 x 1 300 MWe units and 4 x 1 450 MWe units).

Nuclear power and electricity generation

Electricity consumption in France rose by 2.1% in 2012 to 489 TWh. Generation dropped by 0.3% to 541 TWh. The export balance was positive at 45 TWh. The share of electricity generated by nuclear power fell by 3.8% to 405 TWh as a result of prolonged maintenance work, particularly on N4 series units at Chooz and Civaux. This figure represents 75% of domestic production. Generation from fossil-fired thermal plants fell by 7% to 48 TWh. Coal use increased significantly (+35%), leading to a rise in CO2 emissions. Hydropower production rose substantially to 64 TWh (+27%), thanks to a return to more seasonal rainfall patterns than those seen in 2011, which proved to be an especially dry year. Wind power generation totalled 15 TWh (+23%) and solar power production 4 TWh (+67%). Power generated from other renewable sources amounted to 5.9 TWh.

Nuclear reactors

Following the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, a nuclear rapid response force (FARN) was brought into service at the end of 2012, operating out of regional bases at the Civaux, Paluel, Dampierre and Bugey plants.

Research reactors

Work on the new Jules Horowitz reactor (RJH, 100 MWth) to replace the Osiris reactor at the Cadarache site, which began in 2007, is still in progress. Construction started in 2009 and the civil engineering work is still underway. Around 300 people were working at the site at the end of 2012. The reactor is due to enter service in 2016. It will also be used to manufacture radioisotopes for medical purposes.

Generation IV

France has given priority to the development of sodium-cooled reactor technology, a field in which it has already acquired significant experience and know-how.

According to the timetable set out in French legislation, the industrial demonstrator of the 600 MWe advanced sodium technology reactor (ASTRID) must be operational in the 2020s. A team of 500 people (CEA, AREVA, EDF, etc.) have been working on the project since 2011. The funding for the initial phases of the project was earmarked in 2010 under the major national loan.

In 2012, the French Atomic Energy Commission signed a collaboration agreement with Bouygues Construction to design the reactor. The gas-cooled fast reactor is the alternative long-term technology. The aim is to demonstrate its feasibility as part of a European collaborative project with a view to possible deployment by 2040-2080.

In accordance with the provisions of the Law of 28 June 2006, the French Atomic Energy Commission submitted a report to the government on 21 December 2012 setting out the results of research and the industrial outlook for new-generation nuclear systems. This work aims to allow the best options to be chosen with a view to bringing a technological demonstrator into service by the 2020s.

International thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER)

Work began at the Cadarache site in 2007. The 493 concrete bearing pads that make up the anti-seismic system are in place. The civil engineering contract for the Tokamak building was signed at the end of 2012 and the ground support structure will be poured in 2013. The Coils Winding Facility for the poloidal field magnets was completed in February 2012. On 9 November 2012, the Prime Minister signed the decree authorising the ITER Organisation to create a basic nuclear installation.

European pressurised reactor (EPR)

In 2012, several important milestones were reached:

Following the replacement of the consoles, work on concreting the containment walls resumed at the beginning of 2013. At the end of 2012, 94% of the civil engineering work had been completed and 39% of the electromechanical assembly work. The reactor is due to enter into service in 2016.


The ATMEA is a 1 100 MW third generation reactor which is being developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and AREVA NP, in their joint venture company ATMEA. On completion of an 18-month assessment, the French Nuclear Safety Authority approved the safety options for the reactor on 31 January 2012. ATMEA was one of the three reactors pre-selected by Jordan for construction of its first nuclear unit. It was also one of the models selected by Turkey in 2012 for the future power plant at Sinop.

Other developments

On 19 October 2012, EDF, AREVA and CGNPC signed a co-operation agreement with a view to the development of a new intermediate-sized third generation reactor (1 000-1 100 MW).

Fuel cycle

Uranium enrichment

In 2006, AREVA began work at the Tricastin site on construction of the Georges Besse II uranium enrichment plant, which will eventually replace the current Eurodif plant that has been in service since 1978. In 2012, the new plant reached a capacity of 2.5 million SWU. Georges Besse II is expected to reach an enrichment capacity of 7.5 million SWU in 2016. The Eurodif plant was decommissioned at the end of June 2012.

Fuel recycling

A framework agreement between Électricité de France (EDF) and AREVA for the recycling of all spent fuel (other than MOX) from French nuclear power plants was signed in 2008 for a period extending until 2040. Since 2010, the La Hague reprocessing plant now handles 1 050 t of spent EDF fuel a year (compared with 850 t previously) and the MELOX plant will produce 120 t of MOX fuel for French nuclear power plants.

Waste management

To date, 85% by volume of the radioactive waste generated by French operators is covered by effective longterm management solutions. The remaining 15% is packaged and placed in temporary storage pending final disposal (either in surface facilities or in deep geological repositories). Accordingly, the National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (Andra) manages existing storage facilities and conducts research into the deep geological disposal of long-lived high-level waste (HLW-LL). In 2012, Andra published its latest national survey of radioactive waste and recyclable materials.

Very low-level waste (VLLW) is stored at the Morvilliers site (Aube) which is designed to accommodate 650 000 m3 of waste over the next 30 years and has been in operation since the summer of 2003.

Short-lived low- and intermediate-level waste (LILW-SL) is stored at the Soulaines-Dhuys site (Aube) following closure of the Manche site after final waste package placement in 1994. The Manche site entered a very active surveillance phase in 2003, with active surveillance until 2013.

Long-lived low-level waste (LLW-LL) must be disposed of in shallow repositories. A search for suitable sites for shallow-depth storage facilities is currently underway.

Long-lived high- and intermediate-level waste (HILW-LL) is subject to specific legislation, namely Law No. 2006-739 of 28 June 2006 on the programme for long-term management of radioactive materials. This law follows on from that of 30 December 1991 (Bataille Law). It provides, inter alia, for research into the long-term management of HILW-LL by setting out the following three main lines of research.

Advanced separation and transmutation

These research projects are conducted by the French Atomic and Alternative Energies Commission. The main achievements in 2012 concerned the consolidation of the Gnaex process for the overall extraction of all actinides as well as the development of an outline process aimed at the recovery of solely americium, the main contributor to long-term radiotoxicity and thermal loading of waste containers. The ExAm (extraction of americium) process was again successfully tested in 2011 in the Atalante laboratory in Marcoule. A large quantity of americium was recovered (> 99%).

A new solvent was also tested in the laboratory in 2011. It is designed to improve the current PUREX process used at La Hague.

Deep geological storage

Research into the deep geological disposal of long-lived high-level waste is carried out under the aegis of Andra in the underground laboratory in the Meuse/Haute-Marne (Bure). The trial zone at a depth of 490 m has been operational since April 2005. At the end of 2012, the laboratory had over 1 000 m of underground galleries.

A 30 km2 area of interest was officially proposed in 2009 for the future Industrial Geological Repository (CIGEO). The application for construction of a storage facility within this area will be submitted for approval by Andra by 2015. A permit for construction of the facility will then be granted by the Prime Minister, with a view to the facility entering into service by 2025. The public enquiry for the CIGEO project will be held between 15 May and 15 October 2013.

Temporary storage

The studies and research conducted by Andra are aimed at creating, between now and 2015, new storage facilities or the modification of existing facilities in order to meet planned requirements.

The 2006 programme law also provides for the financing of the three avenues of research described above. In particular, it provides for a system of taxes on nuclear installations. Furthermore, the law secures the financing for long-term nuclear charges by establishing a specific regime applicable to the securing of the reserves which operators must put in place to meet their long-term charges.

Source: Nuclear Energy Data 2013

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Last reviewed: 11 December 2013