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French nuclear output extends series of record-lows into March as strikes continue


March output drops 4.7% on year to 34.3 GW

Strike continues, more reactor delays

Later maintenance allows cold snap ramp up

  • Author
  • Andreas Franke
  • Editor
  • Ankit Rathore
  • Commodity
  • Electric Power Energy Transition Natural Gas

French nuclear registered another long-term low in March as average output fell 4.7% on the year to 34.4 GW, system data showed, due to the effects of strikes in the country.

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Analysts at S&P Global Commodity Insight had forecast March to average 38.7 GW, already down sharply from an end-2022 forecast as France's nuclear comeback started to stumble in March amid the strikes.

Meanwhile, operator EDF has already extended its strike warning to April 6 and further delayed reactor returns as strikes enter their fifth week.

Daily 24-hour delays to reactor returns announced over the past two weeks amount to over 17 weeks of lost maintenance across a dozen reactors.

In addition, EDF also postponed the start of maintenance at its six reactors by a combined twelve weeks, delaying their returns later into the autumn.

In the near term, this allowed nuclear to ramp up to 36.3 GW April 3, compared with peaks of around 34 GW late March, as a cold snap boosted demand above 60 GW.

EDF also restarted on April 2 its 1.5-GW Civaux-2 unit, which is currently ramping up output. This is the first return of any reactor since strikes started to impact maintenance in mid-March.

S&P Global forecasts April output to average 33 GW.

Overall, weak demand, strong renewables and falling gas prices have reduced the strike's impact on prompt prices, with April 3 seen settling at Eur123.47/MWh.

Further out, risk premiums returned with Q4 2023 trading above Eur300/MWh and Q1 2024 above Eur400/MWh, EEX data showed.

French Cal 2024 opened April 3 at Eur220/MW, up 49% since March 6 when EDF had announced further cracks at three reactors while submitting a new repair and control plan to safety regulator ASN.

Ongoing strikes make EDF's pledge to perform additional checks faster less likely.

French reactor returns delayed amid strike

Unit MW Outage Start Scheduled Return Notes
Civaux 2 1500 19/11/2021 02/04/2023 SIS repairs completed
Paluel 4 1300 22/02/2023 03/04/2023 Unplanned
Chooz 2 1500 09/02/2023 05/04/2023 Unplanned, SIS repairs completed
Cattenom 3 1300 26/03/2022 08/04/2023 SIS repairs ongoing
Chooz 1 1500 18/12/2021 18/04/2023 SIS repairs ongoing
Blayais 1 900 31/07/2022 21/04/2023 10-year-overhaul
Chinon 4 900 25/02/2023 20/04/2023 Refueling
Gravelines 1 900 11/02/2023 19/05/2023 Refueling, extra maintenance
Saint Alban 1 1300 24/02/2023 21/06/2023 Refueling, extra maintenance
Golfech 2 1300 27/03/2022 04/09/2023 Refueling, SIS checks
Belleville 2 1300 08/04/2023 16/09/2023 Refueling, SIS checks
Paluel 2 1300 08/04/2023 19/04/2023 Provisional maintenance
Nogent 2 1300 15/04/2023 23/09/2023 Refueling, SIS checks
Gravelines 6 900 15/04/2022 14/07/2023 Refueling
Cruas 4 900 22/04/2023 02/06/2023 Refueling

Source: EDF transparency notes to April 3