The Seven Nuclear Developments that Will Shape 2024 in France

2024 will be a pivotal year for nuclear energy. Various bills will cement the resurgence of nuclear power in France, driven by the Executive’s decision. This approach is rooted in democratic principles, as numerous public consultations are set to take place. Additionally, we will celebrate the commissioning of the Flamanville 3 EPR (European Pressurized Reactor)! 


1. New Nuclear Policy Council to Support Industry Projects

Marking the start of the year for the sector, the French government’s nuclear agency, directly presided over by President Emmanuel Macron, is expected to convene in mid-January 2024. Key announcements may include the sites for innovative small reactors and the location of the first pair of Nuward SMRs (Small Modular Reactors). Discussions will likely also cover the financing of nuclear fuel recycling infrastructures.

2. ASN/IRSN Merger in Legislation

In early 2023, the government proposed a reform to merge the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) and the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN). However, due to parliamentary opposition and concerns from the involved bodies, the government was urged to reconsider. Last year, a report by the Parliamentary Office for Scientific and Technological Assessment (Opecst) and the July 2023 Nuclear Policy Council, recommended the merger with some guidelines.

Consequently, a bill to reform nuclear safety was presented to the Council of Ministers on December 20, 2023. The Senate will publicly review this bill on February 7, aiming to reorganize nuclear safety and radioprotection governance, streamlining decision-making for upcoming nuclear projects (construction of new EPR2 reactors, continued operation of existing plants, and enhancing fuel cycle infrastructures).

3. Energy Sovereignty Bill

Replacing the Climate Energy Programming Law (LPEC) is the new Energy Sovereignty Law, set for parliamentary review in the first quarter of 2024. This project embodies the legislative translation of President Macron’s February 2022 Belfort speech. It will legally endorse the revival of French nuclear power, including elements from the French Energy and Climate Strategy (SFEC) consulted in December 2023. Energy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher stated in early 2024, “We need nuclear power beyond the first six EPRs, as the historical fleet won’t last forever.”

This bill will be further detailed by a Multiannual Energy Program (PPE) and a National Low Carbon Strategy (SNBC), also open for consultation in spring 2024.

4. Inquiry Commission on Electricity Production, Consumption, and Pricing for 2035 and 2050

In 2023, an inquiry led by MPs Raphaël Schellenberger and Antoine Armand concluded France’s energy sovereignty and independence loss was due to a “slow drift” of “often unconscious and inconsequential” political decisions since the mid-1990s. A new commission, initiated by the Centrist Union and led by Essonne Senator Vincent Delahaye, will continue this investigation. It aims to extend this work with long-term strategic planning. Hearings are expected to begin in January 2024, with conclusions anticipated by July 2024.

5. Commissioning of Flamanville 3 EPR

A major event for the coming year! Flamanville 3 EPR is set to connect to the grid in mid-2024, according to EDF. Fuel loading is scheduled for March 2024, with grid connection by summer. Until its first complete inspection in 2026, the reactor will undergo various testing phases, adjustments, and power increases.

6. Public Debate for Gravelines EPR2

Following a public debate on the Penly (Seine-Maritime) pair of EPR2s, EDF requested the National Commission for Public Debate in December to organize a public debate on constructing a pair of EPR2s in Gravelines (North). This consultation is expected in the second half of 2024.

7. Consultation on the Operation Beyond 40 Years of 1300 MWe Reactors

France’s twenty 1300 MWe reactors are nearing their fourth decennial inspection and the decision to extend their operation to at least 50 years. Public inquiries will be conducted for each unit. Additionally, the High Committee for Transparency and Information on Nuclear Safety has decided to hold a consultation on the generic phase of these inspections from January to June 2024. The first reactors to be examined are No. 1 reactors at the Paluel and Cattenom nuclear power plants, with inspections scheduled for 2026. ■

By Thomas Jaquemet (Sfen)

Photo: At the end of December 2023, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, the French Minister for Energy Transition, visited the Framatome plant in Chalons.