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) 2014
Nuclear percentage of total electricity supply
France is preparing a new energy law (expected to be finalised in 2015) that may cap nuclear capacity at the present level (63.2 gigawatts-electric [GWe] net) with a view to reducing its share in the electricity mix. One European pressurised reactor (EPR) is under construction at Flamanville.
The draft policy also sets the goal of a 40% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, compared with the 1990s level of 565 million tonnes, by 2030. By that time, renewable energy sources should account for 40% of electricity consumption and 32% of total energy use. The policy sets the objective of halving total energy consumption by 2050. It also sets ambitious targets for expanding the use of electric vehicles with the number of charging points increasing from the current 10 000 to 7 million by 2030.
In France, power consumption is dependent on climatic conditions. In 2014, the warmest year since the beginning of the 20th century, gross electricity consumption (465.3 terawatt-hours [TWh]) fell by 6% compared to 2013. The economic crisis and energy efficiency measures have also helped limit consumption.
In 2014, installed electricity generating capacity rose by 0.5% to 128.9 GWe. The development of wind power and photovoltaics has progressed with nearly 1 900 additional MW installed in 2014. France now has more than 9 100 MW of wind power and nearly 5 300 MW of photovoltaics.
Electricity generation decreased by 1.8% to 541 TWh. Electricity generated by nuclear power represents 77% of domestic production, and generation from all renewable energy sources covered nearly 20% of French electricity consumption. Generation from fossil-fired thermal plants fell by 40% to 27 TWh. Hydropower production declined by 10% to 68 TWh. Wind power generation increased by 7% to 17 TWh and solar power production by 27% to 6 TWh. Power generated from other renewable sources amounted to 7 TWh.
The export balance of France amounted to 65.1 TWh in 2014, the highest level since 2002. The analysis of border trade highlights the growing impact of changes in the European energy mix that includes more renewable energy.
As of 31 December 2014, 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, although individual capacities vary from these standard figures).
Following the Fukushima Daiichi accident, 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.
In 2014, major construction steps were achieved:
Synergies have been developed through shared experience at EPR construction sites in China (Taishan 1 and 2), Finland (Olkiluoto 3) and France (Flamanville 3), and strong links have already been established with the proposed construction site in the United Kingdom (Hinkley Point C). In addition, Areva and Électricité de France (EDF) are working on short-, medium- and long-term optimisations of EPR construction. These include simplifications and new construction methods that reduce cost and construction time.
The ATMEA1 reactor is a third generation pressurised water reactor with a capacity in the range of 1 100 MWe net, designed to be in operation for 60 years. It was developed by ATMEA, the 50/50 joint venture created in 2007 by AREVA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. In January 2012, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) issued a favourable opinion on the ATMEA1 reactor safety options. In June 2013, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) confirmed that overall the ATMEA1 design intent meets the most recent CNSC regulatory design requirements. In 2013, Japan and Turkey entered into exclusive negotiations for the construction of four ATMEA1 reactors at the proposed Sinop site in Turkey.
Osiris is a research reactor with a thermal output of 70 megawatts located in the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) headquarters in Saclay. Its construction was authorised in 1965. In particular, it produces radioisotopes used for medical imaging examinations, notably molybdenum-99 (Mo-99). Its shutdown is expected in late 2015.
The Jules Horowitz research reactor (JHR) project, conducted by the CEA, is being undertaken to address technological and scientific challenges by testing fuel and material behaviour in a nuclear environment and in extreme conditions. It will be a unique experimental tool available to the nuclear power industry, research institutes and nuclear regulatory authorities. The JHR will also be an important production site for nuclear medicine and non-nuclear industry. It will supply hospitals with short-lived radioisotopes used by medical imaging units for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes. The JHR will contribute 25% of the European production of medical radioisotopes or even up to 50% if required. The JHR is being built at CEA Cadarache in compliance with the highest level of safety required by the French Nuclear Safety Authority. It is scheduled to be commissioned by the end of the decade.
The JHR-Collaborative Project (JHR-CP) is recognised as a research infrastructure of pan-European interest by the European Strategic Forum on Research Infrastructure (ESFRI). It is open to international co-operation and 20% of the JHR project costs are supported by European and international partners. Several European research institutes and utilities have decided to join the JHR-CP for long-term access to an up-to-date high performance research infrastructure. In the same way, in return for contributions to JHR construction, the JHR-CP gathered well-known European research institutes from Belgium (SCK•CEN), the Czech Republic (UJV-NRI), Finland (VTT), France (CEA) and Spain (CIEMAT). Some of these institutes have developed a pool of several national public and private partners, like CIEMAT, which invited two Spanish private partners (Empresarios Agrupados and ENSA) to participate in JHR-CP owing to their competence in materials manufacturing within the nuclear field.
In 2001, the 13 partners of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) established an official charter to launch its activities in co-operative R&D to establish the feasibility and performance of future reactors. Its objective is to develop reactors with enhanced safety that are sustainable, economically competitive, non-proliferating and produce only small amounts of ultimate waste forms. Six reactor concepts were selected at the end of 2002. France is strongly involved in this initiative and has decided to focus on two concepts: the gas-cooled fast reactor, as a long-term option, with the ALLEGRO experimental-scale project, and the sodium fast reactor, the reference option, with the Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration (ASTRID) integrated technology demonstrator.
The ASTRID design studies began in 2010. By virtue of the act of 28 June 2006, CEA was selected as the contracting authority for the project and it also received funding for the preliminary design phase, through the "Investment for the Future" Programme (PIA). The CEA proposed ASTRID, with a power rating of 1 500 MWh (or about 600 MWe), making it representative of commercial reactors (particularly for the demonstration of safety and operating modes) while ensuring sufficient flexibility for its objectives.
Based on the feedback of experience from former sodium-cooled fast reactors, very high levels of requirements have been set for the ASTRID reactor currently under study by CEA and its partners. Innovations are needed to further enhance safety, reduce capital cost and improve efficiency, reliability and operability, and to position this reactor at the level required for the fourth generation. During the first phase of the ASTRID conceptual design (2010-2012), promising innovative options have been identified. They are currently being further developed in the second phase of conceptual design (until the end of 2015) and will be confirmed during the basic design phase (2016-2019).
Following the transmission by the CEA of the safety guidance document ("Document d'orientation de sûreté") that underlines the important role of safety in guiding the ASTRID design, ASN received the opinion of its permanent expert group and concluded that the ASTRID project can proceed on the basis of this document.
This follows the 2012 "Panorama of Generation IV reactor technologies" ("Panorama des filières de réacteurs de Génération IV") Institute of Radiological Protection and Safety (IRSN) report. In this document the sodium fast reactors and other reactor technologies selected by GIF were examined from the perspectives of safety and radiation protection. It may be recalled that the technology selection of GIF focused on safety, economics and sustainability; this latter characteristic tends to prefer only fast spectrum reactors that are able to effectively multi-recycle plutonium.
The successful ITER itinerary technical tests, carried out in 2013, demonstrated perfect adaptation to the itinerary. A full "dress rehearsal" will enable validation of the heaviest transit times as well as the overall organisation involving the supervision of extraordinary non-standard material transit.
A decisive stage was reached in the construction of the ITER buildings with the signature, in 2013, of a EUR 530 million contract attributed by Fusion for Energy (F4E) within the framework of the design and production of mechanical and electrical equipment, as well as the implementation of nuclear ventilation systems for 11 buildings of the "Tokamak complex".
On the construction site, the upper base mat of the main building was finalised in 2014. This is also the case for the building where the ITER cryostat is to be assembled. The construction of 16 new annex buildings began later in the year.
In 2006, AREVA began work at the Tricastin site on construction of the Georges Besse II uranium enrichment plant, which replaced the current Eurodif plant that had been in service since 1978 and was decommissioned at the end of June 2012. In 2013, Georges Besse II reached a capacity of 5.5 million separative work units (SWU) and is expected to reach an enrichment capacity of 7.5 million SWU in 2016.
A framework agreement between EDF and AREVA for the recycling of all spent fuel (other than mix oxide fuel) from French nuclear power plants was signed in 2008 for a period extending until 2040. Since 2010, the La Hague reprocessing plant has been treating 1 050 t of spent EDF fuel annually (compared with 850 t previously), and the MELOX plant is producing 120 t of mixed oxide fuel for French nuclear power plants.
In its document "Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection in France in 2013" (Sûreté nucléaire et radioprotection en France en 2013), the ASN determined that R&D studies are occurring according to the three main axes defined in the Waste Act of 28 June 2006. That is, separation-transmutation of long-lived radioactive elements, storage and reversible disposal in deep geological formations.
Moreover, in its opinion paper of 4 July 2013 on the transmutation of long-lived radioactive elements, the ASN considers that "the possibilities for separation and transmutation of long-lived radioactive elements should not be a determining factor in the choice of technology examined as part of the fourth generation. Indeed, the expected gains from the transmutation of minor actinides in terms of safety, radiation protection and waste management do not appear particularly critical given the constraints imposed on fuel cycle facilities, reactors and transportation".
To date, effective long-term solutions are in place for short-lived waste, which amount to 90% of the generated volume of radioactive waste. The remaining 10% is conditioned and stored pending the implementation of a near-surface or sub-surface or deep geological repository. The National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (Andra) operates the existing repositories and conducts research and studies for further repositories. In 2013, the DGEC1 and ASN updated the French National Plan for the management of radioactive materials and waste. In 2014, Andra updated the National Inventory of Radioactive Materials and Waste (to be published in 2015) and participated, in co-operation with the ASN, in the development of the Fifth National Report on compliance with the IAEA Joint Convention Obligations (safety of spent fuel and radioactive management).
Very low-level waste (VLLW) is disposed of at the CIRES repository site near Morvilliers (Aube). The CIRES was commissioned in 2003, and 278 900 m3 of waste have been disposed at the site, representing 43% of its capacity.
Low- and intermediate-level short-lived waste (LILW-SL) is disposed of in the Centre de Stockage de l'Aube (CSA) near Soulaines-Dhuys (Aube). The CSA was commissioned in 1992, in connection with the shutdown of the Centre de Stockage de la Manche (CSM) in 1994, which is now in the post-closure monitoring phase with 527 000 m3 of nuclear waste. Presently, 292 000 m3 of waste has been disposed in the CSA, representing 29.2% of its capacity.
Low-level long-lived waste (LLW-LL) must be disposed of in sub-surface repositories. Site investigations are currently underway, and the results will be part of the feasibility report which is expected to be issued in 2015.
High-level waste (HLW) and intermediate-level long-lived waste (ILW-LL) are subject to the 2006 law, which defines the time schedule for research on partitioning and transmutation, design and implementation of a deep geological disposal, and design studies of storage facilities.
On December 2012, in accordance with provisions of the sustainable radioactive materials and waste management act of 28 June 2006, the CEA submitted a report to the government with the results of research and prospects for the possible new generation of nuclear systems. This report contains the results of seven years of R&D on minor actinide partitioning and transmutation processes.
Minor actinides are the main contributors to the heat released from vitrified waste packages, which to a large extent determine the design of repository disposal cells. Transmutation of minor actinides will not eliminate the need for a deep geological repository, but could open the way to longer-term progress. The dimensions of a long-lived high-level waste repository could be reduced by a factor of 10 and, after the first few centuries, the radiotoxicity inventory of the waste could be diminished by up to factor of 100. Minor actinides do not all contribute equally to the disadvantages mentioned above. The first target for a transmutation strategy could be americium, the element whose transmutation would be of the greatest benefit to waste management, and which has the most limited impact on recycling operations.
The feasibility of minor actinide separation has been demonstrated in the laboratory for all the options under consideration today. There are no theoretical obstacles to extrapolating these processes to commercial scale, and R&D could be pursued to optimise and consolidate these concepts.The feasibility of transmutation of americium has been demonstrated at the scale of a few pellets in homogeneous mode in the core of fast neutron reactors. The first analytical irradiation experiments are now in progress for the heterogeneous transmutation option in the core periphery. The full report is available in the "Energy" section of the CEA website: www.cea.fr.
Studies and research for a deep geological repository are being carried out by Andra in an underground laboratory in Meuse/Haute-Marne (Bure). The experimental area, at a depth of 490 m, was commissioned in 2005. At the end of 2014, the total length of experimental galleries in the laboratory reached 1 400 m. Since the end of 2014, a new type of tunnelling machine is undergoing tests.
A 30 km2 area of interest was approved by the government in 2010 for the location of the underground industrial repository (CIGEO). In 2013, a national public debate was held. One of its conclusions was to insert an industrial pilot phase between commissioning and normal operations. Consequently, the application to construct the CIGEO disposal facility will now be submitted in 2017. The application will respect the "reversibility" act foreseen in 2016. The authorisation for construction will then be granted within 2019 in order to allow for commissioning in 2025 and for the beginning of operational activities in 2029.
Long-lived waste is stored at production sites. The duration of the HLW storage period will last 60 years or more, depending on the thermal power decay required for acceptance in the deep repository. For this purpose and for the management of ILW-LL and LLW-LL, pending the availability of disposal facilities, new storage capacities are being developed by nuclear operators. Storage needs in relation to the implementation of the repositories are jointly defined by operators and Andra.
Research on radioactive waste storage was reoriented by the 2006 law. Storage aims to facilitate waste management between the waste generation and repository availability. This research programme is conducted by Andra, with a particular focus on lifetime (at least 100 years), versatility and modularity of the facilities.
The 2006 Planning Act also defines the financing of the three avenues of research described above, the process for assessing long-term costs and the obligations of the operator in establishing and securing their reserves.
Cleaning and dismantling are immediately performed after the operating period. This management is in accordance with the ASN preferred strategy. Each operator manages the dismantling of its plants that were shut down. The main facilities undergoing decommissioning are:
Decommissioning activities lead to the development of specific skills such as chemical, mechanical and thermal processes for decontamination, remote operations, robotics and virtual reality, radiation measurement and nuclear characterisation, education and training for technicians and engineers, and optimised processes for building or site cleaning based on a geostatistic methodology. Decommissioning feedback experience provides useful information and data for the design of new facilities (such as engineering, material behaviour and containment).
1. General Directorate for Energy and Climate (Direction Générale de l’Énergie et du Climat) part of the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy.
Source: Nuclear Energy Data 2015
Last reviewed: 21 October 2015