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EDF delays French reactor returns again, putting 2023 forecast at risk


Strike warning extended to late April 28

10 weeks lost due to delays since March 17

2023 seen at lower range of forecast: S&P Global

  • Author
  • Andreas Franke
  • Editor
  • Daniel Lalor
  • Commodity
  • Electric Power Energy Transition

French nuclear operator EDF has again delayed reactor return dates as ongoing strikes, extended to March 28, hamper output and maintenance, it said.

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Combined delays since March 17 amount to 10 weeks of delays across a dozen reactors, according to EDF transparency notes.

The latest developments were set to reduce March nuclear output by more than 3 TWh versus a March 2 forecast, according to analysts at S&P Global Commodity Insights.

Output averaged below 34 GW since the current wave of strikes started over three weeks ago after peaking March 3 at 39.3 GW.

Nuclear peaked March 27 at 34 GW after falling as low as 25 GW over the weekend. Some ramp-downs also relate to strong solar and wind output leading to negative hourly prices across Europe.

Bearish prompt

Prompt prices remained weak despite the strike with France also set to maintain its net export position for March as weak demand offset production losses.

Day-ahead peakload plunged to Eur19.37/MWh ($21/MWh) for March 25 but rebounded to Eur118.43/MWh for March 27, Epex Spot data showed, with slightly colder weather unlikely to boost demand significantly.

Grid operator RTE forecast peak demand for March 28 just above 60 GW, down around 4 GW from a similar forecast a week ago.

Last year's early April cold snap boosted peak demand to 74 GW, causing major hourly price spikes.

Demand was pegged below 60 GW early April despite temperatures falling below seasonal norms, according to RTE.

2023 forecast at risk

Further out, French winter contracts extended gains with average Q4 2023 and Q1 2024 settling trading March 24 above Eur300/MWh compared to Eur205/MWh on March 6 before EDF disclosed cracks at three reactors to safety regulator ASN.

EDF pledged to perform additional required checks at a faster speed, it said March 17 confirming its 2023 output estimate when submitting its revised control plan to ASN.

However, given the ongoing risk of strike action likely to extend into April and the additional checks, analysts at S&P Global March 23 lowered their nuclear generation forecast for the remainder of 2023 by an average of 1.5 GW.

"This pulls our outlook for French nuclear generation for 2023 to 308 TWh compared with EDF's projections of 300-330 TWh," the analysts said in a weekly report, adding that underperformance for March could weigh down the 2023 total to 306 TWh.

French reactor returns

Unit MW Outage Start Scheduled Return Notes
Paluel 4 1,300 22/02/2023 29/03/2023 Unplanned
Chooz 2 1,500 09/02/2023 30/03/2023 Unplanned, SIS repairs completed
Civaux 2 1,500 19/11/2021 30/03/2023 SIS repairs completed
Cattenom 3 1,300 26/03/2022 04/04/2023 SIS repairs ongoing
Chooz 1 1,500 18/12/2021 12/04/2023 SIS repairs ongoing
Blayais 1 900 31/07/2022 12/04/2023 10-year-overhaul
Chinon 4 900 25/02/2023 17/04/2023 Refueling
Golfech 2 1,300 27/03/2022 04/09/2023 Refueling, SIS checks
Nogent 2 1,300 01/04/2023 09/09/2023 Refueling, SIS checks

Source: EDF transparency notes