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
* Provisional data
As of 31 December 2011, 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). Work has been proceeding on construction of the Flamanville EPR since December 2007.
Electricity consumption in France fell by 6.5% in 2011 to 478 TWh. Total electricity generation dropped by 1.5% to 542 TWh. The export balance doubled when compared to previous years.
Thanks to improved capacity availability, the share of the total electricity generated by nuclear power rose by 3.2% to 421 TWh, i.e. 77% of domestic production. Generation from fossil-fired thermal plants dropped by 14% to 51 TWh. Hydropower plants contributed 50 TWh. Wind power generation totalled 12 TWh (+23%). Power generated from other renewable sources amounted to 5.6 TWh. Solar power production doubled within the space of a year and amounted to 1.8 TWh.
Additional stress tests have been carried out following the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. The extra investment these tests entail is estimated at EUR 170 million per reactor. Furthermore, a centralised rapid reaction force, operational 24/7, is to be established to back up existing local safety arrangements.
Work on the new Jules Horowitz reactor (RJH, 100 MWth) to replace the Osiris reactor at the Cadarache site, which first began in 2007, is still in progress. Construction started in 2009 and the concrete raft, mounted on aseismic bearing pads, was poured in January 2011. The first three concrete lifts of the reactor building were completed in 2011. Civil engineering work has also started on the reactor pool and auxiliary buildings. The reactor is due to enter service in 2015. It will also be used to manufacture radioisotopes for medical purposes.
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 600 MWe advanced sodium technology reactor (ASTRID) must be operational by the end of 2020. A basic preliminary design project (PDP) was launched in 2011 with a team of 450 people (CEA, AREVA, EDF, etc.). The funding for the initial phases of the project was earmarked in 2010 under the major national loan.
Researchers at the French Atomic Energy Commission have developed a new architecture for the core of this reactor, which is based on an improved safety concept compared with standard sodium-cooled fast reactor cores.
The gas-cooled fast reactor (GFR) 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.
Cadarache was officially chosen as the site for the ITER at the meeting held in Moscow on 28 June 2005. Work began in 2007.
Work began in 2011 on the ground support structure of the tokamak complex. All the concrete columns of the anti-seismic system had been poured by the end of December.
The huge assembly hall for the "poloidal field coils" was completed in February 2012.
In 2011, several important milestones were reached in the construction project at the Flamanville site:
At the end of 2011:
The reactor is due to enter into service in 2016.
The ATMEA is a 1 100 MWe third generation reactor 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 in 2010 by Jordan for construction of its first nuclear unit.
In the summer of 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 2011, the new plant reached a capacity of 1.4 million SWU. Georges Besse II is expected to reach an enrichment capacity of 7.5 million SWU in 2016.
The shutdown phase for the current plant is expected to get underway at the end of June 2012.
A framework agreement between Électricité de France (EDF) and AREVA for the recycling of all spent fuel (other than MOX) from French NPPs was signed in 2008 for a period extending until 2040. Since 2010, the La Hague reprocessing plant has handled 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 NPPs.
To date, 85% of the radioactive waste generated by French operators in volume terms is covered by effective long-term management measures. The remaining 15% of waste 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 2009, it published its latest national inventory 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 which opened in the summer of 2003.
Short-lived low- and intermediate-level waste (LILW-SL) is stored at the Soulaines-Dhuys site (Aube). The Manche storage centre has no longer been receiving waste consignments since 1994. It entered into an active surveillance phase in 2003, with very active surveillance until 2013.
Long-lived low-level waste (LLW-LL) must be disposed of in shallow repositories. The search for a shallow-depth storage facility has been underway since 2008.
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 and waste. 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 three main lines of research (as detailed below).
Advanced separation and transmutation
These research projects are conducted by the Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique et aux Énergies Alternatives. The main achievements in 2009 concerned the consolidation of the Ganex 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 successfully tested in 2009 in the Atalante L17 laboratory in Marcoule. A large quantity of americium was recovered (>97%), resulting in a decontamination factor significantly higher than 1 000.
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 2009, the laboratory had around 800 m of underground galleries, all fitted with instrumentation.
A 30 km2 area of interest was officially proposed in 2009. The main project contractor in charge of preparing construction was selected in 2011 via a call for tenders. The application for construction of a storage facility within this area will be submitted by Andra for review and approval by 2015. A permit for construction of the facility will then be granted by a decree issued by the Prime Minister, with a view to the facility entering into service by 2025, after completing a procedure set out in the legislation which consists of seeking opinions from the nuclear safety authority, the national evaluation committee, parliament and the local authorities concerned, as well as a consultation and public enquiry. In addition, the opening of the facility is subject to adoption of a law setting out the conditions for the reversibility of disposal.
The studies and research conducted by Andra are aimed at creating, between now and 2015, new temporary 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 2012
Last reviewed: 7 August 2012