Penly EPR2 : France’s major new nuclear program is launched

EDF has officially submitted the application for authorization to build two EPR2 reactors at Penly. 50 years after the Messmer plan, this marks the start of France’s major new nuclear program.

June 28, 2023 is a milestone in the history of the French nuclear industry. EDF’s Board of Directors, in its capacity as project owner, has approved the application for authorization to build two new nuclear reactors at the Penly power plant (Seine-Maritime). This is the first stage in the program to build six to fourteen EPRs in France.

The announcement came after a four-month public debate between November 2022 and February 2023, at the end of which the French National Commission for Public Debate (CNDP) issued a series of recommendations. EDF responded by presenting its measures to ensure an environmentally and socially responsible project, while keeping the public informed at all times. This public debate was the first step before launching the project.

First works in 2024

In concrete terms, EDF has initiated several administrative procedures, in particular concerning :
the Decree authorising creation (DAC), which will take around three years to process;
the environmental permit, which should take a year to process.

Once the environmental permit has been obtained, EDF will be able to start preparatory work for the site in summer 2024, including earthworks and reprofiling part of the cliff, which will take around three and a half years.

Once the decree has been obtained, EDF will be able to pour the first “nuclear” concrete for the first reactor in 2027, i.e. specifically dedicated to the construction of the reactor building. The project will then take around seven years to complete, with commissioning scheduled for 2035. This sequence of construction phases was made possible by the French Nuclear Acceleration Act, passed by Parliament on June 21 and promulgated on June 23.

And what’s next?

The President of the Normandy Region, Hervé Morin, rejoiced on Twitter: “This is a historic moment. EDF’s Board of Directors has just officially launched the EPR2 construction site in our region. Normandy fully mobilized for the relaunch of nuclear power in France!

While this first project is just about to get underway, a second pair of EPRs is planned for Gravelines, and a third for Tricastin or Bugey. These prospects will be the subject of further public consultations.

More unexpectedly, during a visit to Marseille, French President Emmanuel Macron questioned the advisability of installing EPRs near the Marseille-Fos basin to meet the future needs of the port of Marseille, equivalent to four or five gigawatts. While local mayor Benoît Payan (left-wing-environmentalist coalition) rejected the idea, the Head of State called for the question to be asked “without taboo”. ■


By Ludovic Dupin (Sfen)

Photo: Penly nuclear power plant ©DidierMars/CapaPicture/EDF

Listen again: Last October, Gabriel Oblin, EPR2 Project Director at EDF, and Catherine Back, Technical Efficiency Director for Major Projects at EDF, took us on a guided tour of the next French reactor in the Sfen podcast “le nucléaire en clair”. Find out more here.