France considers 20-year extension for 60-year-old nuclear reactors

Will French nuclear power plants be able to operate for up to 80 years? What will be the cumulative effects of climate change on reactors? What will happen to future radioactive waste? On Tuesday, January 24, senators are expected to adopt the nuclear acceleration bill, which aims to facilitate the start of work on the sites where six new European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs) could be built. Concurrently, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) has called for a “global and systemic” reflection on safety issues as part of the debate on the future of the energy system.

The discussions need to cover the entire nuclear field and not just new reactors,” ASN President Bernard Doroszczuk said on Monday, January 23, in an address to the press. “It is important that in the next few years, we have the information needed to justify the structural factors that determine the nuclear component of the energy policy.”

Among these assumptions is that of increasing the life span of current reactors. During a hearing at the Assemblée Nationale on Thursday, January 19, EDF’s executive director in charge of nuclear power plants, Cédric Lewandowski, assured the audience that the question of extending their life to 80 years was “on the table.” In February 2022, President Emmanuel Macron had already expressed his willingness to extend the reactors beyond 50 years – the period until which the oldest reactors in the fleet are currently authorized to operate – provided they “pass” their fourth 10-year visit.

[The consequences of addition to cheap Russian energy are a powerful incentive to keep these reactors in operation. It might be better to tailor the extensions to cover building new reactors with more current technology to replace these — hopefully sooner than in 30 years. — Ed]

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