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French nuclear output above 50 GW for first time since February

French nuclear output rose above 50 GW for the first time since Februarywith seven more reactors scheduled to return over the coming eight days, datafrom nuclear operator EDF and grid operator RTE showed Monday.

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However, EDF delayed three reactor returns by a combined 11 days includingunit 2 at the Tricastin NPP amid a decision pending by the nuclear safetyregulator ASN to rule on works by EDF to strengthen the embankment on a canalnext to the plant in the South of France.

The fresh delays announced since Friday are:

Tricastin-2 (0.9 GW) delayed from Dec 4 to Dec 6, 23:00

Chooz-2 (1.5 GW) delayed from Dec 3 to Dec 8, 23:00

Cruas-3 (0.9 GW) delayed from Dec 5 to Dec 9, 23:00 EDF has now scheduled the remaining seven reactor returns over the next eightdays, with four reactors scheduled to remain offline going into 2018.

Over the weekend, EDF returned the 0.9 GW Chinon-3 reactor, bringing returnsin the regulator-requested review of documents relating to nuclear partsmanufactured at the Le Creusot forge to seven with all 12 reactors scheduledto return in 2017 having received clearance, a spokeswoman for EDF told S&PGlobal Platts last Thursday.

None of the findings so far have called into question the safe operation ofthe reactors, EDF said.

The spokeswoman also added that EDF is awaiting the decision by the ASN regarding the return of its 3.7 GW Tricastin nuclear power plant.

In late September, ASN requested a temporary shutdown while EDF strengthened adike on a canal next to the plant, with EDF having completed the works in lateOctober and the ASN previously saying it will finalize its assessment of theworks in early December.

ASN was not available to comment when contacted by Platts.

EDF also returned over the weekend its 1.3 GW Paluel-3 reactor, which sufferedan unplanned outage last Tuesday.

Meanwhile, power demand was forecast to peak at 83.7 GW Monday evening withslightly milder temperatures expected later this week, but another possiblecold snap next week lifting the demand forecast above 85 GW next Tuesday, RTEdata shows.

French nuclear output in November fell to a record low just above 30 TWh withoutput so far this year trailing 2016 by over 5 TWh, putting EDF's annualoutput target of 383 TWh at risk, an analysis of monthly production data fromgrid operator RTE shows.

November's nuclear output averaged around 42 GW. In order to achieve the lowerend of EDF's reduced 2017 nuclear output target, reactor output would need toaverage 57 GW in December, the data shows.

PIRA Energy Group, a unit of S&P Global Platts, in its European ElectricityMonthly Outlook published December 1 assumes that the December output will bearound 49.8 GW.

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

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

--Edited by Maurice Geller, maurice.geller@spglobal.com