Nuclear power in France

  • Renewable Energy
  • Fossil fuels
  • Nuclear energy
  • Hydropower

Nuclear energy is the dominant energy source in France. Your share of primary energy consumption amounted in 2010-2012 to around 40 %. Of the approximately 550 TWh of total electricity production in 2010 about 429 TWh ( gross) were produced by nuclear power plants. In an international comparison, France has about 78 % (2011 ) had the highest percentage of current nuclear- generated world.

France is the world's largest net exporter of electric power; The main customers are Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain and Germany.

2011 542 TWh (net ) were produced in France and 478 billion kWh consumed ( about 6800 kWh per person). 2011 was a relatively mild year; In 2010 consumed 513 billion kWh. (1 TWh = 1 TWh). In 2011, exports 56 billion kWh.

France redeemed average of 47.5 EUR / MWh on the electricity exchange EEX for its exported electricity.

The 58 operating reactors are operated by the largely state-owned power company EDF. 12 old reactors were shut down (as 20xx ). An EPR reactor at Flamanville site since 3 December 2007 ( where since the mid-1980s already two pressurized water reactors operate ) under construction. The planned construction costs are massively exceeded: instead of 3.3 billion euros it should (as of December 2012) about 8.5 billion euros ( more details here).

2008/2009 planned Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic from 2007 until May 2012, the construction of a new EPR. After the nuclear disaster at Fukushima ( March 2011) and the election of François Hollande as the new president this seems unlikely.

The state power company EdF ( Electricite de France ) plans (as of February 2012) to extend the maturities on the proposed 40 years out; be aimed at 60 years (beginning 2012). François Hollande, French President since May 2012, is regarded as less nuclear- friendly than its predecessor Sarkozy.

  • 3.1 The first generations
  • 3.2 900 - MWe class ( CP0, CP1 and CP2)
  • 3.3 1300 - MWe class ( P4 and P'4 )
  • 3.4 1450 - MWe class ( N4)
  • 3.5 1750 MWe class ( EPR)
  • 3.6 fusion reactors
  • 4.1 European stress test for nuclear power plants
  • 4.2 Financial implications of a severe reactor accident


After the Second World War, many dams were built to generate electricity ( list here ) in France; hydropower was the early 1960s, with about 70 % share of the energy produced the largest pillar of the French electricity production. As a result of the economic growth on rising demand for power in particular oil power plants have been built over to cover the electricity needs becoming more volatile in the 1960s.

Nuclear energy delivered in the beginning of the 1960s only a small contribution to national energy production. There were, on the experience of the French nuclear weapons program ( Force de frappe ) building, taken 1959-1972 nine gas-cooled graphite-moderated reactors and ( UNGG reactors) in operation, which could be operated with natural uranium. Furthermore, in 1967 a pressurized water reactor and a gas-cooled heavy water reactor to test the technologies ever put into operation. 1973 carried the nuclear energy only 8% for electricity production in France.

Messmer Plan

The so-called Messmer Plan ( production of electricity from uranium to reduce dependence on energy imports ) was decided before the oil crisis. Pierre Messmer (1916 - 2007) was on July 5, 1972 to May 27, 1974 Prime Minister of France ( under President Georges Pompidou ). The massive construction of new nuclear power plants was therefore not ( as is often assumed ) a response to the oil crisis. It was after de Gaulle's resignation (1969 ) an atom Commissariat with about 3,000 employees. This was underemployed after the force de frappe was ready armed. In 1971 the head of the Atomic Energy Commissariat to retirement; and was succeeded by André Giraud (1925 - 1997). This has taken some strong measures, and in March 1971 published a plan:

  • In the years 1971 to 1975 should now new nuclear power plants will be built with a total capacity of 8,000 megawatts ( MW) of four or five ( only two instead provided );
  • As the first new buildings were Fessenheim I ( Alsace ) and Bugey II provided in the Bugey nuclear power plant ( near Lyon ).

The following housing starts show the pace of expansion: Bugey II 1 November 1972, Bugey III 1 September 1973, Bugey IV June 1, 1974, Bugey V 1 July 1974 Giraud (1925 - 1997) approached the state and the nuclear industry each other strongly (. details in the people article). However, the construction took much longer than expected (completion from May 1978 to July 1979 ). 1980 went seven French nuclear power plants in operation, eight in 1981, two in 1982, four in 1983, six in 1984, four in 1985, six in 1986.

Pompidou ( president in June 1969 - 1974) pushed for the modernization of France. France was until the 1970s a rural oriented country. With increasing industrialization, many jobs were in agriculture and created many in the industry. The energy consumption of France increased significantly.

The EdF chose as the pressurized water reactor technology from, inter alia, also due to the existing uranium enrichment capacity from the nuclear weapons program. The regional or national licensing and supervisory authority Autorité de sûreté Nucléaire (in Germany at the federal level, see Nuclear Regulatory Commission ) favored the use of standardized reactor designs throughout France ( CP0, CP1, CP2 ); this was a basis for a fast and relatively inexpensive expansion of nuclear power plant capacity in the 1970s and 1980s. ( in Germany, however, relatively many different types have been built only from the construction line 69 (1969 ) / there were four nearly identical copies). 1979 20 % of electricity produced in nuclear power plants, in 1983 49% were achieved in 1990 and about 75%. Parallel to the expansion of nuclear energy use fossil fuel power plants were shut down.

Mitterrand era disappearance and reappearance of the boom

Under François Mitterrand (President 1981-1995 ), there was a slowdown in the construction of additional nuclear power plants ( see list of nuclear facilities in France). It was found that the Messmer Plan had overestimated ( like many German forecasts in the 1970s ) the electricity demand far. There was an over-capacity of nuclear power plants. In 1988, the reactors of EDF were occupied on average only about 61 %, this made ​​it difficult to repay the loans taken for their construction. Therefore connections to the electricity networks of the neighboring countries have been expanded to open up additional market opportunities (see European composite system ).

The consequences of the Chernobyl disaster ( April 1986) were systematically downplayed and concealed in France.

Response to Fukushima

In contrast to Germany and other countries, especially Japan, did not change after the meltdowns at Fukushima France under President Nicolas Sarkozy 's nuclear policy. Whether the stress tests for the French reactors on its own initiative or just to calm the EU, Germany and the French public were carried out is questionable. The Fukushima the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety ( IRSN ) conducted stress tests revealed that all 58 active nuclear reactors have to be retrofitted for reasons of operational security, because they are not sufficiently designed to withstand natural disasters. Required additional installations are safe from flooding diesel generators, retrofitting of earthquake-resistant pipes, also the cooling water supply must be increased for the emergency cooling. In addition, were discovered at the nuclear power complexes Tricastin Gravel Lines and Saint Alban previously overlooked or ignored security flaws, such as the proximity to chemical plants and factories for explosives.

The top candidates of the opposition Socialist Party announced in September 2011 to try to opt out of the use of nuclear energy in the long term. In November 2011 it was announced that Socialists and the Greens want to take in an election victory in 2012 24 of the 58 nuclear reactors by 2025 from the mains. The nuclear power plant Fessenheim should be switched off immediately.

In June 2011, a representative survey of the Institut français d' opinion publique had pronounced 62 percent of the French for a phasing out of nuclear energy within 25 to 30 years; another 15 percent wanted to get faster.

François Hollande was elected on May 6, 2012 as the next president of France. He won the runoff election May 6, 2012 against incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.

In the French parliamentary elections in 2012, on 10 and 17 June 2012, the Parti Socialiste managed a victory, so that even in the National Assembly, a majority of socialists is available. Thus, greater opportunities are given to change the energy policy.

Peculiarities of nuclear energy in France

Due to the high share of nuclear energy in total electricity production French nuclear power plants in must be able to adapt their performance to the demand ( " load following mode " ), so to work as medium load power plants. This requires some technical adjustments to the reactor design, since nuclear power plants are internationally usually used as base load power plants.

Due to the load following operation, the average utilization of the French nuclear power plants with 75 % is relatively low by international standards. Due to the high proportion of fixed costs to total operating costs of a nuclear power plant, this is suboptimal from an economic perspective. Due to lack of peak load capacity, EDF is forced into periods of high electricity demand, " buy the relatively expensive spot market " power. It is sometimes claimed that France had invested too much in nuclear generation capacity. Electricity is exported for low prices abroad and subsidized prices and low taxes, demand is fueled domestically. This leads to a relatively high electricity consumption in France, including by electric water heating and building heating systems. This can be seen as a waste of electricity, but reduces the need for fossil fuels and related CO2 emissions. Among the G8 countries, France has the lowest CO2 per capita emissions.

A problem arises from the cooling water requirements of the nuclear power plants in hot summer periods, unless they are built on a coast or do not have cooling towers. Since France has hardly any spare capacity, can lead to longer -lasting heat waves to serious problems in ensuring the electricity supply. This was evident for example in August 2003.

Also critical are longer lasting very cold periods of frost, as the demand for electricity increases dramatically in these due to the mainly electrically heated and poorly insulated French building stock. So France was, for example, during the cold wave in Europe in 2012 temporarily to net importer of electricity.

Reactor types

The first generations

The first reactors were gas-cooled graphite-moderated reactors and ( UNGG reactors). All reactors of this generation have now been turned off. A first pressurized water reactor of 300 MWe class was built in Chooz based on a Westinghouse designs. Based on the experience gained there the standardized French reactor types have been developed.

900 - MWe class ( CP0, CP1 and CP2)

All power plants, the CPx - Series (CP stands for contrat programs, with the following number tells you the number of the program ) are similar; the net electrical power is 900 mW by the use of a " three -loop" designs. The heat of the primary circuit is converted to three steam generators in the secondary circuit, where the generated steam, the turbine operates.

As the first reactors of the CP0 - building line 1977, the two units of the power station at Fessenheim were put into operation, the four other CP0 reactors are located in Bugey. In power plants, the lines CP0 and CP1 still share two reactor blocks machinery shed and a control center.

The reactors of the CP1 and CP2 series have an additional cooling circuit, additional emergency systems, a more flexible control technology for load-following operation and are very similar in their construction. Both are often also under the name ' CPY ' summarized.

All six reactors of the CP0 series and the 28 reactors of the CPY series in France with a total capacity of 5 and 26 GW are still in operation (as of 20xx ). CPx reactors were also built in other countries ( inter alia, the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station in South Africa).

1300 MWe class (P4 and P'4 )

When P4 (P4 stands for Paluel 4- loop), is a further development of CP2 s - the net electrical output has been increased by using a " 4 -loop" design of 1300 MWe. Furthermore, the reactor control system was upgraded to the load following mode. From P4 20 reactors were built with a total net installed capacity of 26 GW. The structural difference between the P4 and P'4 is the size of the reactor building and the machine shops that were designed to be smaller in the P'4 to reduce construction costs.

1450 MWe class (N4 )

The N4 reactor type has in addition to increased performance, especially improvements in load -following capability. A N4 reactor can adapt its performance under reduced use of boric acid and is below the previously established large pressurized water reactors of the adjustable most flexible.

From the N4 only four reactors were built two nuclear power plant Civaux and two on the Chooz nuclear power plant. Construction began each 1984-1991, the commercial operation was, however, due to thermal fatigue problems in the residual heat removal system, and because of turbine problems until between 2000 and 2002. The four built reactors have a total electric net capacity of 6,000 MW.

1750 MWe class ( EPR)

As the next generation of European French reactor pressurized water reactor is provided. It was developed by Areva from the N4 and Siemens ( convoy ) reactor. A first prototype is being built in Finland at Olkiluoto nuclear power plant. The construction costs of the nuclear power plant Olkiluoto are massively overshot; the progress is (as of 2011 ) about four years behind schedule.

Earliest 2016Vorlage: Future / In 2 years (as of December 2012) to the construction of a second EPR in Flamanville (France) to be completed, was originally planned in 2012. The investment cost of this reactor have increased enormously. Were estimated 2005 cost of 3.3 billion euros at the start of construction in the year, this rose in December 2012 to 8.5 billion euros. Thus, the economics of the project is put a major question mark; Enel then withdrew from the project because it did not see any prospects for a positive marginal rates more. Therefore also in France, there was strong criticism of the project. Be hawked electricity production costs of about 7 to 10 ct / kWh over the entire operating period; current wind turbines achieve an average of 8 to 8.5 ct / kWh, according to Fraunhofer ISE approximately 6.5 to 8.0 ct / kWh.

A third EPR is planned (2008 /09) in the Penly nuclear power station.

The buyer has agreed a fixed price; Areva and Areva NP make the construction of billions in losses. In view of the euro crisis, the global economic crisis 2009/2010 and a banking crisis, the financing of nuclear power plants is more difficult than before.

Fusion reactors

The demonstration reactor ITER will be built in Cadarache, France since 2009 and is intended to demonstrate the feasibility of generating electricity from the fusion of deuterium and tritium. The commissioning of a hydrogen plasma is provided (as of early 2012 ) for the end of 2020


European stress test for nuclear power plants

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a stress test of all existing nuclear power plants was carried out at EU level. In this stress test fell next to northern European nuclear power plants va French investors who are particularly negatively on. In all 54 nuclear power plants larger defects were detected, even the best French nuclear power plant amounted to five complaints under the EU average. Other nuclear power plants were up to seven complaints at the end of the table. For all power plants is considerable need to retrofit, Europe is calculated per reactor block, depending on the severity of the defects with approximately 30 to 200 million euros.

Environmental groups criticized the stress test sharp, demanding the shutdown of the offending plants. Thus, the stress test have largely taken place on the paper, while only a few plants have actually been studied. Originally, inter alia, to pressure been inspected by France in the EU, only 38 of the 134 nuclear power plants, in particularly controversial facilities such as nuclear power plant Fessenheim and in the Czech nuclear power plant Temelin held no examinations. Subsequently, eight other power plants were inspected after heavy criticism of the method, followed by the French nuclear safety authority ASN complained about the methodology of the stress test. In addition, according to environmentalists certain risks such as the risk of terrorist attacks or plane crashes had been totally disregarded, while only the resistance to extreme natural events as well as mastery of consequential accidents had been investigated, however. Previously, terrorist attacks and cyber attacks were taken from the test catalog at the initiative of France and Britain.

Financial consequences of a major nuclear accident

In February 2013 study by the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety IRSN was published, in which the economic consequences of a credible accident were examined similarly to the Fukushima disaster in a French nuclear power plant. Overall, the researchers expect a total loss of about 430 billion euros, which is about twice as much as the subsequent costs in Fukushima. The reason for this is, among other things, that in Japan by the weather during the disaster, especially by the wind, the fallout largely blew beyond the sea, possible worse effects have prevented. This was not to be expected in France. It is to be expected with about 100,000 refugees, in addition to several departments were at border locations such as Cattenom or Fessenheim also neighboring countries like Germany affected. About 110 billion euros would be spent on direct environmental costs such as decontamination of radioactively contaminated regions, addition, there were strong economic costs. In addition to a sharp decline in tourism and a slump in the sale of agricultural products, especially French wine was to be expected, which could pull together 160 billion euros consequential costs. Given this high financial impact pleaded ISRN - General Jacques Repussard for retrofit French nuclear power plants for safety reasons. The study shows clearly that "the ten billion euros, EDF will invest since Fukushima to make its nuclear power plants safer not particularly high side " were.

Fuel - cycle

France is one of the few countries in the world that have a closed fuel cycle. Uranium ores are mined by French companies abroad, refined in two enrichment plants at Tricastin to nuclear fuel and spent fuel processed in two reprocessing plants at Beaumont -Hague. The capacities are sufficient to foreign customers can deliver.

Contrary to the view of the French nuclear group Areva will be with the closed circuit but not 96%, but only 10% of the spent fuel recycled (see also: Nightmare nuclear waste ). A portion of the remainder is shipped to Siberia or directed at La Hague into the sea.

For the final disposal of low-level radioactive waste repository, the Centre de la Manche was used in Northern France between 1969 and 1994. There were short-lived waste stored near the surface to ensure a risk-free decay of radioactivity over the next 300 years. As the successor to the Centre de l' Aube in 1992 put into operation.

For high-level radioactive waste, the suitability of the local clay formation is examined as a repository in northern France Bure in a research mine.


According to a report by the Supreme Court in France - January 2012 - cost the discovery, development and the construction of the French nuclear power stations a total of 188 billion euros. These costs have been amortized through the sale of electricity to approximately 75%. Since the plants are still in operation, but these costs are likely to be covered. For follow-up costs, there are hardly any provisions. The Court also assumes that for the dismantling of the facilities provided for 18.4 billion euro will not be enough, but at least twice the sum was to be set. In addition, more long-term costs for the disposal or the disposal of nuclear waste would have to be taken into account; these are difficult to quantify according to the report.

In his German translation of the summary, the Court also writes (Page 8):

" The construction and planning costs ( 79 751 million € 2010), scaled down to the reactor power increased with time from 1.07 million € 2010/MW in 1978 ( Fessenheim ) to 2.06 € million 2010 2000 ( Chooz 1 and 2) or 1.37 € million 2010 2002 ( Civaux ) at an average of 1.25 million € 2010/MW for 58 reactors. This increase is mainly with the ever-increasing safety requirements related. Although a precise comparison is not possible since the final total costs of an EPR are unknown, the Cour des Comptes could find that construction costs increased in proportion to the power in MW with this new generation that had to meet from the beginning extensive safety requirements, further are. With an estimated construction cost of € 6 billion for the Flamanville EPR (first reactor of the series ) and a capacity of 1,630 MW, the cost per MW of € 3.7 million; being at the expense of the series of estimated € 5 billion, and its cost per MW amount to € 3.1 million. "