Country profile: France

Summary figures for 2016

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) 2016
Nuclear percentage of total electricity supply
France
58
416.8
 
76.3
 
OECD Europe
130
790.4
22.3
 
OECD Total
317
1 877.5
18.5
 
NEA Total
352
2 061.1
18.7
 

Country report

Nuclear policy

France has a new energy law that caps nuclear capacity at the present level (63.2 GWe net) with a view to reducing its share in the electricity mix. The other main target is to reach 50% of the electricity production from nuclear origin by 2025. One European pressurised reactor (EPR) is under construction at Flamanville.

The new policy also sets the goal of a 40% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, compared with the 1990s level of 565 million tonnes. By that time, renewable energy sources should account for 40% of electricity production 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.

Nuclear power and electricity generation

In 2016, in metropolitan France, the capacity of electricity generating facilities increased by 1 699 MW (+1.3%) compared to 2015, and reached 130 GW.

Total electricity production reached 531.3 TWh, a decrease of almost 3% compared to 2015. This decrease was accompanied by a sharp drop in the export balance (-34.8%).

The decline in electricity production in 2016 is mainly observed in the oil, nuclear and coal sectors. Gas production increased (+59%) accordingly. At the same time, favourable rainfall conditions, along with capacity growth, have led to an increase in renewable production.

Nuclear reactors

As of 1 January 2017, 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 and the establishment of a nuclear rapid response force (FARN) operating out of four regional bases, additional modifications are being implemented at existing nuclear power plants to guarantee better coverage of extreme situations related to loss of heat sink and of both on-site and off-site electrical power.

Flamanville 3 EPR

In 2016, major construction steps were achieved: i) most of the equipment of the nuclear section, including the conventional island, was delivered and installed on-site; ii) the main civil engineering work was completed; and iii) the turbine and the alternator started for the first time; the control room was transferred to EDF teams that will operate the reactor.

Synergies, especially in the commissioning domain, 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 Hinkley Point construction site in the United Kingdom. In addition, Areva and 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.

ATMEA

The ATMEA1 reactor is a third generation pressurised water reactor with a capacity in the range of 1 100 MWe, 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 (MHI). 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 basis meets the most recent CNSC regulatory design requirements. In April 2015, both the Intergovernmental Agreement and the Memorandum of Co-operation including the Host Government Agreement for the construction of four ATMEA1 reactors at the proposed Sinop site in Turkey were approved by Turkish Parliament. A feasibility study is currently underway.

Research reactors

The Jules Horowitz Research Reactor (JHR) project, conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission (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, and an international R&D platform. The JHR will also be an important production site for nuclear medicine and non-nuclear industry. The JHR is being built at CEA Cadarache and is expected to be commissioned by the beginning of the next decade.

Major milestones have been recently achieved, such as: i) the final delivery of hot cell structures allowing finalisation of the civil works of the nuclear buildings (completion in mid-2017); ii) significant progress was made in manufacturing some key-components of the reactor pile block and the reactor's primary cooling system; iii) major inroads were made with launching the manufacture of the non-destructive benches, as well as pursuing the development of the first fleet of innovative experimental devices. The JHR R&D Working Groups on Fuel, Material and Technology have also made significant progress proposing some first research topics of interest to form an international community in the field, extending to partners outside the JHR Consortium.

Generation IV/ASTRID

The partners of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) established in 2001 an official charter to launch its activities in co-operative R&D to establish the feasibility and performance of future reactors. France is strongly involved in this initiative and is leading the design studies for the Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration (ASTRID), the technology demonstrator for the fourth generation of sodium-cooled fast reactors (SFRs).

The ASTRID design studies began in 2010. By virtue of the act of 28 June 2006, the 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 MWth (or about 600 MWe). The front-end engineering and design of the ASTRID reactor was finished in late 2015 with the submittal of the Preliminary Design Report and the Nuclear Safety Design Basis document. The basic design of ASTRID, to be carried out over the 2016-2019 period, was launched in January 2016.

International thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER)

The ITER project is the culmination of more than 60 years of research in the field of fusion energy. Currently under construction at Cadarache, ITER is an essential step towards the commercialisation and large-scale generation of fusion power. The ITER members include China, the European Union, Switzerland, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States.

Site preparation and construction of the first ITER buildings has already generated more than EUR 4.5 billion in contracts; 288 companies are currently working on the ITER construction site in the south of France. At the same time, component manufacturing is progressing worldwide and the convoys are arriving one after the other on-site with components (transformers, massive tanks, elements of the cryostat, crane beams, etc.). More than 2 000 people, whether staff directly or indirectly employed by the ITER Organization, or contractors, are now located on the site. There are about a dozen construction sites underway simultaneously: the tokamak buildings are slowly coming out of the ground, the assembly hall is now towering over the site at a height of 60 metres, and construction of the cryogenic plant has just been launched.

Fuel cycle

Uranium enrichment

In 2006, Areva began work at the Tricastin site on construction of the Georges Besse II uranium centrifuge enrichment plant, which replaced the Eurodif facility that had been in service since 1978 and stopped operation at the end of June 2012. In 2016, Georges Besse II reached its full capacity of 7.5 million separative work units (SWU) per year on schedule as planned.

Fuel recycling

In 2016, the La Hague reprocessing plant treated about 1 118 metric tonnes of used fuel and produced 999 canisters of vitrified waste. The plant has two production lines (UP2-800 and UP3), which have a combined licensed capacity of 1 700 metric tonnes of used fuel per year. In 2016, the Melox plant produced 124 metric tonnes of MOX fuel for its French and international customers.

Waste management

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, 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 (published in 2015) and participated, in co-operation with the ASN, in the development of the Fifth National Report in 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 up to the end of 2016, about 329 571 m3 of waste have been disposed at the site, representing 51% 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. At the end of 2016, about 316 692 m3 of waste have been disposed in the CSA, representing 31.6% of its capacity.

Low-level long-lived waste (LLW-LL) must be disposed of in sub-surface repositories. Site investigations and studies are currently underway.  High-level waste (HLW) and intermediate-level long-lived waste (ILW-LL) are subject to the 2006 Waste Act, which defines the time schedule for research on: i) partitioning and transmutation, ii) design and implementation of a deep geological disposal, and iii) design studies of storage facilities.

Partitioning and transmutation of minor actinides

In 2012 and 2015 respectively, the CEA submitted two reports to the government with the results of research and prospects for the possible new generation of nuclear systems. These reports contain the results of R&D studies on the partitioning and transmutation processes of minor actinides. The 2015 full report is available in the "Energy" section of the CEA website: www.cea.fr. Research is ongoing on partitioning processes for Americium (Am) selective recovery, and on dedicated Am-bearing fuels for fast neutron reactors. Am transmutation demonstrative experiments should be performed in the ASTRID reactor.

Deep geological repository

Studies and research for a deep geological repository are 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 2015, the total length of experimental galleries in the laboratory reached 1 500 m. A 30 km2 area of interest was approved by the government in 2010 for the location of the underground industrial repository (Cigéo). In 2013, a national public debate was held. One of its conclusions was to include an industrial pilot phase between commissioning and normal operations.

Considering some changes in regulatory requirements, the licence application to construct the Cigéo disposal facility will now be fully submitted in 2018. In early 2016, several key documents were submitted to the safety authority, within the context of the licence application, in particular a master plan for operations including the pilot phase. In 2016, French Parliament passed a law on reversibility, detailing the procedure for establishing the Cigéo. The bill adopted in July 2016 by the National Assembly defines reversibility for the Cigéo geological disposal facility as "the capacity, for the coming generations, either to pursue the construction and then the operations of the successive phases of a disposal, or to reassess choices made previously and to develop management solutions". This definition allows a large range of technical and governance choices for the future generations which will have to build and operate the disposal facility for over 100 years. This law is an important milestone for Andra, which can henceforth prepare the licence application for the disposal facility and launch a consultative process with its stakeholders. According to Andra's timetable, the construction approval is expected for 2021 and the first waste for 2030.

Storage

Long-lived waste is stored at production sites. The duration of the HLW storage period will be 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 is conducted by Andra, with a particular focus on the lifetime (at least 100 years), versatility and modularity of the facilities.

Decommissioning

Cleaning and dismantling for decommissioning of nuclear facilities are immediately performed after the operating period, followed by post-operational clean-out operations (POCO). This strategy, adopted by the nuclear operators is in accordance with the ASN preferred option. Each operator/owner manages the dismantling of plants that have been shut down. The main facilities undergoing decommissioning are:

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 2017

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Last reviewed: 6 November 2017