Country profile: France

Summary figures for 2017

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.

Country Number of nuclear power plants connected to the grid Nuclear electricity generation (net TWh) Nuclear percentage of total electricity supply
France58 379.1 (b) 71.6
OECD Europe127774.421.7
OECD Total3111 856.817.6
NEA Total 352 2 062.6 17.9
(b) Preliminary data.

Country report

Political aspects

Update on the French Multiannual Energy Plan

The process to update the Multiannual Energy Plan (MEP) was recently launched by the French government for the period 2018-2028. This prospective document sets the priorities for the evolution of the French energy mix, while taking into account the objectives of the French Energy Transition Law.

A public debate was planned for the first half of 2018 and the publication of the MEP is expected by the end of 2018.

The Energy Transition Law was passed in October 2015 and sets, in particular, the objective of reducing the share of nuclear power in the electricity mix from 75% to 50% by 2025.

In November 2017, however, the Ministerial Council of the French government announced that this goal would be difficult to meet without resorting to new fossil fuel power plants, which would not respect French commitments towards climate change. In the interim, the French government remains committed to diversifying the electricity mix by developing renewable energies. It has also confirmed its ambition to reduce the share of nuclear energy and to discuss the evolution of the electricity mix during the MEP update.

Industrial and technological aspects

Progress with the reshaping of the French nuclear industry

The key steps of the process of reshaping the French nuclear industry have now been achieved, with the recapitalisation of New Areva and the transfer of the reactor business (Areva NP) to EDF, which has become the main shareholder of the corresponding company called Framatome. New Areva's activities are now focused on the fuel cycle and the company has been renamed Orano.

Six EPR reactors are under construction worldwide and their status is as follows:

  • Flamanville 3 in France and Olkiluoto 3 in Finland have performed their cold tests. The expected date for fuel loading is the end of 2018.
  • Fuel loading for the first EPR in Taishan, China should take place in 2018 and will be quickly followed by the second EPR in 2019.
  • The first nuclear safety concrete for the first EPR at Hinkley Point C in the United Kingdom is expected by mid-2019, following extensive ongoing site preparation.

Decisions of the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) regarding the EPR reactor vessel anomaly

In June 2017, the ASN presented its conclusions regarding the material anomaly detected in the context of the Flamanville EPR reactor pressure vessel. According to the extensive technical analysis that was carried out, the ASN considered that the mechanical characteristics of the pressure vessel bottom head and closure head were sustainable with regard to the loads to which these parts would be subjected, especially in accident conditions. However, the current closure head of the reactor vessel would have to be changed in seven years, given the insufficient monitoring possibilities for this part of the reactor.

Moreover, EDF would have to implement additional periodic inspections to ensure that no subsequent flaws appeared. The ASN notified EDF of its decision on 10 October 2017 and confirmed that the vessel head and bottom head of the Flamanville 3 EPR reactor vessel were serviceable.

Progress with the deep geological repository project, Cigéo

As part of the licensing process for the start of the project, a "Safety Options File" was submitted by the National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (ANDRA), and was reviewed by the Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety Institute (IRSN), the technical support of the ASN. The report sets out the objectives, concepts and principles to ensure the facility's safety.

In July 2017, the IRSN submitted its conclusions to the ASN and highlighted that the project achieved an overall satisfactory technical maturity at that stage, underlining the substantial design and research undertaken by ANDRA to demonstrate the installation's safety. However, it raised a question on the adequacy of planning the disposal of existing bituminised waste in the future disposal, as a result of the hazards associated with this waste stream.


Progress with the Astrid demonstrator project

The Astrid demonstrator project is currently in its basic design phase, which is meant to be completed by the end of 2019. International collaboration on this project have recently been strengthened, most notably with Japan.

A number of technical milestone deliverables have also been completed. For instance, the simulation of a gas power conversion system based on the Brayton Cycle has been greatly improved using the latest version of the Cathare 3 thermal-hydraulic modelling code that integrates the nitrogen real gas state. This design option would eliminate the risk of water-sodium interaction.

Progress with the Jules Horowitz Research Reactor (JHR) project

In parallel to the ongoing construction of the future JHR Material Test Reactor (MTR) at CEA-Cadarache, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) is preparing the first joint research programme on innovative fuel and materials with its partners from the JHR International Consortium.

To gather a scientific community around the JHR, pre-JHR joint programmes with the support of operating MTRs are under preparation and applications are being made to both the European Union Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (Horizon 2020) and the NEA joint programme scheme, which will be performed in the next few years with the aim of proceeding with the JHR starting from 2022.

ICERR Affiliates' agreement extended to three new countries

As part of the IAEA International Centres based on Research Reactors (ICEERs) scheme, the CEA has signed three more agreements with Algeria, Jordan and Indonesia in 2017, for a total of six affiliates (Slovenia, Morocco and Tunisia being the first ones) that are now linked to the CEA under the framework of this IAEA initiative, facilitating access to CEA experimental facilities.

Selection of the CEA's technology to demonstrate the feasibility of earth decontamination in the Fukushima region

A joint venture between Areva and Atox has been selected by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment in order to demonstrate the feasibility of earth decontamination in the Fukushima region, based on a process patented by the CEA in 2012. This process was subsequently developed at a technological scale through a collaboration with Areva and Veolia that was financed by the French Strategic Investment Fund (PIA).

Nuclear power economics

Recent publications by the French Nuclear Energy Society

Regarding the role of nuclear energy in the French energy mix, the French Nuclear Energy Society (SFEN) has published a first document highlighting the costs of the existing nuclear fleet. The document shows that at EUR 32-33 per MWh – including refurbishment – nuclear energy will remain the most competitive power source in France for the coming years.

In April, SFEN issued another paper on the future costs of nuclear power, looking at potential improvements that can be done to reduce the investment cost for new reactors. A rough order of magnitude of the potential is about 30%, if a programme of several units is envisioned.

In addition, SFEN has prepared a communication plan and a publication about nuclear scenarios for France based on a European modelling approach that highlights the benefits of nuclear energy compared to renewable energies and the advantages of postponing the reduction of nuclear energy to 50% of the electricity mix.

Source: Nuclear Energy Data 2018