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French power price surges as EDF delays return online of five reactors to end-Dec

Amsterdam — French power for December delivery jumped in early morning trade Thursday after EDF extended outages at five nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 4.5 GW to the end of the year.

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December base was seen trading Eur23 higher day-on-day at Eur140/MWh, with traders saying the gain was mainly on the back of this news, amid temperatures seen dropping next week to more than 5 C below the seasonal norm, and week-ahead prices spiking to record highs.

EDF delayed the return online of its 900 MW Gravelines-2 and Bugey-4 reactors Thursday morning by one month, from November 30 to December 31, the latest plant availability data from French grid operator RTE showed.

EDF also delayed the return online of its 900 MW Tricastin-4 nuclear reactor to December 31, with the unit previously slated to return to the grid on December 19.

Article Continues below...

It also delayed the return online of the 900 MW Tricastin-1 and Tricastin-3 reactors from December 23 to December 31.

The delays at Gravelines-2, Bugey-4 and Tricastin-1 and -3 come just days after EDF announced it had completed safety tests at six reactors, including these four.

These six units are part of the 12 reactors that have components made by Japan Casting and Forging Corp. and needed to have additional safety tests performed on them under the guidance of French nuclear safety regulator ASN. These reactors contain steel components in their generators that have a high concentration of carbon which can reduce the fracture toughness of a material, reducing its ability to withstand the propagation of cracks.

After saying Monday afternoon it completed safety checks at these six reactors, EDF updated all the maintenance schedules to show there would be no further extensions to the outage plans. All reactors were due back on November 30, with the exception of Tricastin 1 & 3, which will return online December 23.

EDF has performed the safety checks during the annual maintenance of the plants, with the exception of four reactors, which will come offline specifically and only for the tests this December. Tricastin-2, Civaux-1, Fessenheim-1 and Gravelines-4 are due to be taken offline in December and return back to the grid by mid-January, according to the most recent plant availability data from the French grid operator.

Outages at the reactors inspected for safety issues have been hard to predict by market participants, with the schedule constantly changing since September and the market seeing a correlation between safety assessments and outage extensions.

EDF last week delayed the return online of Bugey-4, Civaux-2, Gravelines-2, and Dampierre-3 by around two weeks to the end of November. Tricastin-1 and -3 have also had their outages extended considerably in September.

--Ana-Maria Tolbaru,
--Edited by Maurice Geller,