Corrosion of nuclear reactors further undermines EDF’s prospects – 05/19/2022 at 15:17

The Bugey nuclear power plant on January 25, 2022 in Saint-Vulbas, in Ain (AFP / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK)

EDF’s results this year will ultimately be even worse than expected due to corrosion issues in its nuclear fleet that have forced 12 reactors to be shut down and will severely limit production this year.

The power producer now estimates that the planned 2022 fall in its nuclear power production will cost it 18.5 billion euros in EBITDA (gross operating surplus), instead of the 16 billion announced in March (revised to 14 billion in May), according to a statement Thursday.

For comparison: In 2021, EDF’s EBITDA was €18 billion.

The group also reiterates that it will “adjust its nuclear power production estimate for 2022 to 280-300 TWh from 295-315 TWh previously”.

‘EDF is continuing its inspection program and is preparing, together with the nuclear industry, to repair those parts of the pipelines affected by stress corrosion,’ the group explains.

“We are planning the repairs to be carried out more finely,” said Régis Clément, deputy head of nuclear production, during a press conference.

To date, in fact, 12 out of 56 reactors have been shut down due to a proven or suspected “stress corrosion” (SCC) phenomenon.

EDF counts “four for which the survey has confirmed CSC”, according to the manager, including three (Civaux 1, Chooz 1, Penly 1) with corrosion on both the safety injection system (RIS) – a crucial circuit that enables the reactor in the event of an accident be cooled – and the closed cooling circuit (RRA). The Chinon B3 reactor has a fault in a weld, but only in the RRA circuit.

“Today, design is something that we seem to prioritize,” Régis Clément pointed out, something that welding seems to reinforce.

The design was mentioned on Tuesday by the President of the Nuclear Safety Agency (ASN), Bernard Doroszczuk. A cause that could explain why, in his opinion, the oldest and most numerous reactors, the 900 MW reactors, are “little or not at all” affected by the corrosion phenomenon.

“At this stage for 2022, EDF believes that there is no need to anticipate new reactor shutdowns,” states the group, which on the other hand has planned “intermediate shutdowns” for four reactors beginning in Q2 2023.

“Our reactors are running today because they are safe,” assured Régis Clément.

– “political game” –

“If you want to kill your dog, say he has rabies,” responded Fabrice Coudour, federal secretary of the FNME-CGT, who sees the publication of these figures as “a political game to justify Hercules,” a restructuring plan by EDF that of the The Executive Board and the management of the group want to put it back on the table after temporarily refraining from doing so last year.

In fact, during the presidential campaign, Emmanuel Macron had mentioned a renationalization of EDF as part of a “broader reform”.

“We are increasing the nationalization probability to 75% from 50% previously,” analysts at Oddo BHF commented in a statement. “This hypothesis could become a government priority after the deadline for next month’s general elections given EDF’s weak prospects,” they write.

The already highly indebted group is facing a series of challenges: the construction of new EPRs announced by President Emmanuel Macron, reactor expansions, expansion of renewable energies…

The group had previously warned of the impact of the Arenh State’s boost mechanism (regulated access to historic nuclear power) on its results. This mechanism obliges EDF to sell electricity at a low price, which is worth much more in the markets, and the state has increased volumes to stem the bills’ surge.

The worsening of the financial prospects justifies the “suspension” of this device, estimated Amélie Henri, national secretary CFE-UNSA Energies for EDF.

Photo taken March 27, 2007 in Belleville-sur-Loire (AFP / ALAIN JOCARD)

Photo taken March 27, 2007 in Belleville-sur-Loire (AFP / ALAIN JOCARD)

Faced with this difficult environment, the group’s CEO announced last Thursday a “gracious appeal” against this government decision, while the state is its largest shareholder.

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