EPR2 and operation of the park beyond 60 years… the priorities of the Nuclear Policy Council

While the public debate on the EPR2 program is underway and Parliament is preparing to debate France’s energy future, the Élysée is determined not to waste any time on nuclear power. At a nuclear policy council, the government wants to closely monitor the long-term operation of reactors, accelerate new construction and reaffirm the role of the “Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives” (CEA) in the development of small modular reactors (SMR).

In February 2022, Emmanuel Macron, then a presidential candidate, delivered the famous Belfort speech that envisioned a vast investment plan in renewable energy and the revival of nuclear power in France. One year later, on February 3, 2023, the President of the Republic convened a nuclear policy council to “take stock of the entire French nuclear issue, both in the short and long term,” the Elysée explained in a statement.

Among the priorities, “to ensure the security of France’s electricity supply,” the Council emphasized the importance of the long-term operation of existing nuclear reactors: “Intending to produce decarbonized and competitive electricity over the long term, the Nuclear Policy Council also validated the launch of studies to prepare for the extension of the lifespan of existing power plants to 60 years and beyond, under strict safety conditions guaranteed by the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN).

Securing the EPR 2 schedule

The Council also emphasizes the smooth progress of constructing six EPR2s in France if the decision of Parliament, after the public debate, is favorable. “Securing the commissioning schedule for these reactors will be made possible by provisions in the bill on accelerating procedures near existing nuclear sites and the operation of existing facilities. In particular, this bill will reduce the time required for specific administrative procedures and allow construction work to proceed in an optimal manner. The coordination of this project will be ensured by creating the interministerial delegation for the new nuclear power plant (DINN).

Importance of the cycle

Beyond the EPR2 program, the Executive Council emphasizes the importance of launching small modular reactors (SMRs) and innovative reactors (AMRs), supported by the France 2030 plan. The CEA’s role in accompanying and supporting these projects is reaffirmed. The press release, which is not mentioned much, also insists on “the launch of an in-depth reflection on the issue of the fuel cycle so that France can maintain and strengthen its strategic autonomy in this area. On Twitter, Orano CEO Philippe Knoche welcomed the “recognition of the importance of the fuel cycle, and in particular recycling, for France’s sovereignty.

The Élysée has already announced that two other CPNs will be held this year. “The June CPN will validate the orientations of the EPP for the period 2030-2035. The CPN at the end of 2023 will be devoted to a detailed review of the EPR2 program and to decisions to be taken on the downstream part of the cycle.” ■

By Ludovic Dupin (Sfen)

Photo: Emmanuel Macron convened a Nuclear Policy Council on February 3, 2023.