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French power company stalls nuclear plant closure

The Fessenheim plant will not be closed until EDF is given a new assessment for damages compensation, the electric company has said. This pushes back plans to shut down the 40-year-old plant by at least a year.

The fight over the plan to close France's oldest operational nuclear power station took another turn on Thursday. The operators of the Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant near the German and Swiss borders want a new assessment of the damages they will be awarded before they begin the process of shutting down the reactors.

The news came at the same time French nuclear watchdog ASH said one of Fessenheim's reactors had to be shut down temporarily due to irregularities in a steam generator.

Opposition to Fessenheim began even before it was built in the 1970s, but has ramped up in recent years due to a number of minor safety breaches in the past decade. Leading the charge has been anti-nuclear power Germany, particularly the state of Baden-Württemberg, whose border lies a mere 1.5 kilometers (0.93 miles) from the reactors.

President Francois Hollande had promised to shut the plant by the end of 2016, but now EDF, France's majority state-owned electrical company, wants a new appraisal of how much the government should pay it in damages for losses incurred as a result of the shutdown. They say the 100 million euros ($114 million) offered by the government is far too little.

Observers say that a realistic timeline for the plant to go offline would be 2018, but to that end EDF has given no official date for its end of operations.

es/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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