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Fessenheim nuclear plant to close by 2022

October 5, 2018

The closure of the nuclear power plant just across the border from Freiburg is no longer conditional on the startup of a new reactor on the Normandy coast. The opening of EDF's Flamanville 3 plant has been delayed.

Fessenheim nuclear power plant is to close by 2022
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/V. Kuhn

France's Ecology Minister Francois de Rugy has said Fessenheim's two 900-megawatt (MW) reactors will be shut down by 2022.

"The (Fessenheim) plant will close during this presidential mandate, which runs until 2022," de Rugy told francinfo radio.

Previously the closure had been tied to the start-up of the new generation EPR Flamanville 3 reactor on the northwest French coast, across the English Channel opposite the UK city of Bournemouth. It had been scheduled to open next year.

But the startup date for Flamanville has been pushed back, to at least the second quarter of 2020, following problems with its construction.

On Wednesday, French nuclear regulator ASN said that faulty weldings could require more repairs at Flamanville than previously anticipated. "Today, no one can say for sure when Flamanville will start and be operational," de Rugy said, adding that operator EDF was "not able to give us a start-up date for Flamanville, neither is the Nuclear Safety Authority."

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French nuclear future

During the summer, Fessenheim was one of four French nuclear reactors temporarily shut down to avoid overheating the nearby Rhine and Rhone rivers. The plants use river water to cool down reactor temperatures and then return it to the rivers. Unusually warm rivers can cause fish to die in large numbers.

The nuclear reactors of state-owned utility EDF currently provide France with 75 percent of its electricity. A new, longterm energy strategy is expected to include a reduction of nuclear's share to 50 percent, although no date has been set for that target to come into effect. An announcement is expected in the coming weeks.

Economic adjustment for Fessenheim

Announcing measures to help the Fessenheim region adapt to the closing of the plant, Minister for Ecological and Inclusive Transition Sebastien Lecornu said €10 million ($) of a 10-year €30 million package would be released  from January 2019.

Lecornu said in the town of Colmar, near Fessenheim, on Thursday that the funds were in support of the regional project of economic transition developed by local, elected officials to cover an area of 200 hectares north of the nuclear plant "of which 30 hectares will be made available from January 1 2020," he said.

A Franco-German mixed, state and private enterprise is also to be set up. It will be responsible for the development of the area, Lecornu said.

The region around Fessenheim has been economically dependent on the nuclear power plant for 40 years.

jm/ng (AFP, AP)

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