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French nuclear power output hits 40 GW on reactor ramp-up

French nuclear output hit 40 GW Thursday for the first time since October 2, with at least three reactors ramping up and some seven more reactors scheduled for a return next week, data from nuclear operator EDF and grid operator RTE show.

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The temporary shutdown of the Tricastin nuclear power plant requested by French nuclear safety regulator ASN, the regulator's Le Creusot review and operational maintenance delays have hampered nuclear production so far this month with output averaging just above 37 GW, RTE data shows.

This is well below September's output, with peaks above 43 GW before the Tricastin shutdown. September output also registered the biggest year-on-year rise so far this year, the data shows.

EDF restarted its 1.3 GW Paluel-4 nuclear reactor on Sunday after receiving the go-ahead last week from ASN for a restart, with the unit still ramping-up to full capacity, it said.

Paluel-4 was the first reactor to return amid ASN's review of documents relating to parts manufactured by the Le Creusot forge for all 58 reactors in France.

EDF also returned its 1.5-GW Chooz-1 (on an unplanned outage since October 2) and 1.3-GW Belleville-1 (extended maintenance since May) units Tuesday and Wednesday.

However On Thursday, EDF delayed planned return dates for two of its 900-MW units at Gravelines by a combined seven days, with unit 5 scheduled for a return Sunday and unit 1 scheduled for Monday, it said in on its transparency website.

EDF's current maintenance plans are running-up against a very steep ramp-up schedule with some 15 planned reactor returns clustered over the next three weeks by November 13.

This includes all four units at the Tricastin NPP with units 1,2 and 4 scheduled for a November 2 return with unit 3 also part of the first 12 ASN Le Creusot review files scheduled to return November 13.

According to a report by national broadcaster Radio France, work to re-enforce the dike protecting the Tricastin plant from a potential tsunami triggered by a very strong earthquake are progressing and are scheduled to be completed October 31. The earthquake-triggered tsunami risk was the reason for ASN requesting a shutdown of the plant.

EDF operates France's 58 reactors and after two record years for nuclear output in 2014 and 2015 has struggled with extended outages in 2016 and 2017.

Last month, EDF was again forced to cut its nuclear production target for 2017 by another 5 TWh to a range of 385-392 TWh mainly due to the Tricastin outage.

To achieve the lower end of this target, EDF would need to stick very closely to its planned maintenance schedule for the remainder of the year, with at least 17 reactors still scheduled to return before the end of November.

This would lift nuclear availability well above 50 GW during November, rising further to 59 GW for December, according to its transparency website and analysis by S&P Global Platts.

French power prices for November baseload delivery, which jumped from below Eur55/MWh late September to trade above Eur70/MWh mid-October, have eased to levels around Eur60/MWh this week, according to Platts pricing data.

--Andreas Franke,
--Edited by Jonathan Dart,