Macron’s energy plans in tatters as EDF nuclear reactor flaw deals hammer blow

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During a speech at the 48th G7 summit held in Germany, Mr Macron laid out his plans to rid the world of coal and get the planet to net zero emissions by 2050. In his roadmap, he touted the benefits of nuclear energy, which is the largest source of electricity generation in France, accounting for 70 percent of the country’s supply. However, recent reports of cracks being discovered in some of EDF’s nuclear reactors may throw a spanner in the works.

During the summit, Mr Macron said: “It is clear that we need to support the transition of our major partners in compliance with what was agreed upon in Glasgow so that we can deal with the transition altogether.

“Phasing out coal is a priority, going to gas or nuclear and then all the way to renewables.

“We have to scale- coal is the worst of course with the highest level of emissions, then comes gas, which is not as bad but still emits CO2.

“Nuclear is better, given that it is a low-carbon energy.

“This is the reason why we’re defending it beyond the french model and then all the renewable sources at the moment.”

The French leader admitted one disadvantage of nuclear energy is the technology is not permanent, as ageing nuclear reactors need to decommission, usually after 40 or 50 years after opening.

While France has a large fleet of nuclear reactors, many of them are ageing, with French regulators pushing the scheduled shutdown of over half of EDF’s reactors by over a decade.

Mr Macron continued his speech by highlighting the importance of developing low-carbon energies like nuclear in non-industrialised countries around the world.

He said: “We have had many discussions with our partners and the conclusion is that there are two necessities.

“First of all, we need to speed up the investment, which will ensure that everyone has access to energy and in particular we need to acknowledge the fact that there are still 600 million households in Africa without electricity and we can’t build that overnight.

“We have projects in South Africa for example, we will be working on another one in Senegal and a number of other countries, and of course, we’ll still maintain our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.”

However, these ambitious goals may be foiled as recent reports warn of significant corrosion safety problems in EDF nuclear power plants in France as cracks detected in some nuclear reactors could risk causing “nuclear accidents”.

The cracks were first detected in an emergency cooling circuit of reactor no. 1 of the Civaux power plant in October.

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Similar cracks have been discovered in three other 1500 MW reactors and of the Penly 1 reactor (1300 MW), prompting them to be shut down as well.

The report notes that several reactors have faced “stress corrosion” which is often characterised by “cracking of a material… the stresses are linked to manufacturing operations and in particular to welding operations”.

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