Plans for a second French EPR move forward

A public debate on construction of a European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) at Penly (Seine Maritime) will open March 22.  Two 1330 MW pressurized water reactors are already in operation at the site, which is located on the English Channel.  Penly 3 would be the second French EPR.  The first is under construction at Flammanville.

The debate will be organized by the National Commission on Public Debates (CNDP).  For four months, discussions, in which the public is invited to participate, will be held across the country.  Then the CNDP will have two months to present its report on the debate to the National Assembly; and the construction manager will have three months, to the end of January 2011 to reply.  If the results of the debate, in particular the conclusions in the report of the CNDP, are favorable to construction of the reactor, a public inquiry into the proposed plant will begin.

In the past Electricité de France (EDF) has been the only construction manager and operator of French nuclear reactors.  However, at Penly, GDF-Suez, thwarted in its attempt to become sole owner and operator, is anxious to participate as an operator beside EDF.  Its hope is that, by such participation, it can  gain recognition from the nuclear safety authority (ASN) that will pave the way for its becoming the sole operator of one or more future French reactors.

GDF-Suez was formed in 2008 from the merger of Suez and Gaz de France, privatized to permit the merger.  An independent company, it is active in many countries and with various types of energy.  It owns and operates seven nuclear reactors in Belgium under the name Electrabel as well as plays a role in other aspects of the nuclear industry.

At Penly 3, GDF-Suez will be a minority owner (25%) of the proprietary company .  EDF will own 50%; ENEL, EON, and Total will also have shares.  GDF-Suez is trying to persuade the public authorities to name the company, rather than EDF, the operator.  In this case, EDF-Suez can be regarded as an operator alongside EDF.  The CGT, a powerful labor union, however, wants EDF to remain the only nuclear reactor operator in France.

Knowing the roles of the companies that will participate in a Penly 3 would facilitate the public debate on the reactor.  Therefore the state may shortly clarify the relationship of EDF and GDF-Suez there.

Sources:  Articles on Penly Les Echos, 27 January and 10 February 2010

–Mary Byrd Davis

Copyright© 2010 by EcoPerspectives

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