While the French government promises a nuclear revival, its supreme auditing body warns of serious obstacles to this.

The Court of Auditors (Cour des comptes) is the supreme body for auditing the use of public funds in France. It is independent from the Government and Parliament. It has financial jurisdiction and is in charge of auditing, issuing rulings and certifying the State and Social Security accounts, as well as contributing to the evaluation of public policies.

Nuclear revival: the Court of Auditors highlights many obstacles  https://reporterre.net/Relance-du-nucleaire-la-Cour-des-comptes-pointe-de-nombreux-obstacles 19 Nov 21,

In a report published this Thursday, November 18, the Court of Auditors questions our “ability to build a new fleet of [nuclear] reactors on time and at reasonable costs”. This, while “maintaining a 50% nuclear share in electricity production (…) beyond 2050 would require ultimately not having seven EPR or EPR2, but 25 to 30 in the assumption that the current reactors would almost all be shut down by this time, ”the text specifies. And that the composition of the new mix must be decided between 2022 and 2027, believes the institution, given the delays in the construction of new plants.

The report from the Court of Auditors

In this document entitled “The choices of electricity production: anticipating and controlling technological, technical and financial risks”, the wise men of the rue Cambon recall the slippages of cost – 19 billion euros instead of the 3 billion planned – and of deadlines – at least eleven years late – of the Flamanville EPR site. “The gaps are similar for the Olkiluoto RPE in Finland,” they said. In July 2020, the Court of Auditors detailed these troubles at length in a report dedicated to the EPR sector.

Several points of real concern are mentioned.

One is the locations of these new reactors, “as climate change can make the installation of sites along rivers more complicated”.

Management of spent fuel and waste: the construction of new reactors planned to operate until 2100 would in fact involve “either renewing the fuel reprocessing plant at La Hague (…) and creating new sites for ‘warehousing and then disposal of nuclear waste, or to propose another mode of management of spent nuclear fuel and waste which would be, in such a hypothesis, much more voluminous ”, we read in the note.

Another imperative element for the implementation of this half-nuclear mix emphasized by the Court is “the start of the Cigeo radioactive waste disposal project” – a project that is also marred by many uncertainties.

The cost, finally. “EDF will not be able to finance the construction of new nuclear reactors on its own when it has to bear the cost of extending the current fleet and of the“ post Fukushima ”safety investments, face the future costs of dismantling and the uncertain evolution regulated access to historic nuclear power since its inception in 2011, and that it is already indebted to the tune of 42 billion euros, ”warns the Court of Auditors. The project to build six new EPRs had been estimated at 46 billion euros by EDF and could be half-financed by the state, as reported by Reporterre. The cost of the investment has since been reassessed from 52-56 billion euros to 64 billion euros, according to a working document released at the end of October by the media Context.

The implementation of a 100% renewable energy mix also represents many challenges, nevertheless warns the Court of Auditors. It would thus be necessary to define modalities for storing energy (batteries, etc.) at an affordable cost and to overcome implementation difficulties linked to geography, regulations and even social acceptability.

In any case, “the holding of an informed democratic debate would encourage choices made with full knowledge of the facts and then followed up with lasting effects”, recommends the institution. This debate could take place in 2023 during the preparation of the next multiannual energy program, the roadmap for France’s energy policy.

The publication of this report comes at a time when debates rage on the definition of the electricity mix of the future. On October 25, the electricity transmission manager unveiled its six electricity scenarios for 2050: three give pride of place to the atom. Less than three weeks later, Emmanuel Macron promised the construction of new nuclear reactors in France during a televised address.

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