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France leaves door open for new nuclear if cost-competitive

Highlights

Leaked document sets Eur60-70/MWh cost for new EPR 2 reactors

Government document calls for strategy paper by mid-2021

Final decision to be taken between 2021 and 2025

London — France may keep the door open for new nuclear reactors in the 2020s if they prove to be cost-competitive, with a leaked government document setting a Eur60-70/MWh average cost range for the second generation EPR.

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The draft dossier, published by French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche, calls for a strategy paper by mid-2021 with a final decision on any nuclear new-build to be taken between 2021 and 2025.

The French energy ministry was not able to comment on the document when contacted by S&P Global Platts.

French news agency AFP last Friday said the Eur60-70/MWh levelized cost range matched comments from EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Levy in a parliamentary hearing earlier this year.

French regional broadcaster France 3 meanwhile reported on EDF land purchases next to existing reactor sites at Belleville and Chinon quoting an EDF spokesperson saying the sites could be used for future low-carbon power generation projects.

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"We are seriously considering the possibility of launching new nuclear projects in France in the next decade," Cecile Laugier, VP Strategy and Environment at EDF's nuclear unit, said at the Platts European Power Summit in September.

"This is a decision for government, but we have the technology to do so," Laugier said.

Last week, President Emmanuel Macron and energy minister Francois de Rugy held working meetings with key energy players ahead of the publication of the government's energy roadmap for the coming decade.

The PPE energy plan is now expected to be presented November 12 with nuclear closures the key issue to be broached by the multi-annual plan for 2019-2023 and 2024-2028.

The latest reports suggest the government may have moved closer to EDF's position of no reactor closures bar the oldest units at Fessenheim before 2029.

Royal Bank of Canada analysts expect the government to target a 50% share for nuclear in the generation mix by 2035 following comments made by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in September.

A reduction to 50% by 2035 would correspond to operational nuclear capacity of around 44 GW, requiring a significantly faster build-out of renewables than is currently the case.

EDF's Laugier told Platts last month that the new EPR 2 reactors would be needed to come online in the 2030s to secure low-carbon power generation beyond 2050.

EDF's 58 reactors cover around 75% of France's electricity needs. Its nuclear fleet capacity is capped at 63.2 GW.

In its generation adequacy assessment, system operator RTE assumes 1 GW of wind and 700 MW of solar will be added per year.

To balance a generation mix with 44 GW of nuclear by 2035, 3 GW of wind and 1.8 GW of solar need to be added per year between now and then, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.

French year-ahead baseload power traded above Eur60/MWh this September, more than doubling since record-lows in early 2016, EEX data show.

--Andreas Franke, andreas.franke@spglobal.com

--Edited by James Leech, james.leech@spglobal.com