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French nuclear output rebounds in Jan, but remains below average

London (Platts)--31 Jan 2018 714 pm EST/014 GMT


French power output from nuclear plants rebounded in January from record lows last quarter, but was only marginally above levels seen in January 2017 and still well below average levels in previous years, an analysis of monthly production data from grid operator RTE showed.

Nuclear output in January was 40.6 TWh, up only 0.5% from a year ago, but 9% higher month on month, the provisional data aggregated by Platts PowerVision showed.

January's nuclear output averaged 54.6 GW compared to 50.1 GW in December following a gradual ramp-up from a record-low during winter season of 37.5 GW in October, the data showed.

The reason for the improved output is better reactor availability after EDF in December finally managed to return most reactors that were offline due to unplanned outages during the fourth quarter with the exception of Belleville-2 which had been delayed to end-February, it said.

Actual nuclear availability in January was even higher with the unusually windy, mild and wet weather this January forcing operator EDF at times to ramp down its reactor output during off-peak hours.

LE CREUSOT REVIEW ONGOING

The temporary closure of the Tricastin NPP as well as delays in connection with the regulator's Le Creusot review saw French nuclear output fall to a record low in Q4 with an estimated 14 TWh loss of reactor output, S&P Global Platts calculations showed.

The cumulative delays from the first 12 reactors in the Le Creusot review -- ignoring other operational maintenance issues -- amounted to over 300 days, the calculations showed.

EDF confirmed Wednesday that it had submitted the next seven files in the Le Creusot review to the nuclear safety regulator ASN concerning the Cruas 2, Fessenheim 2, Tricastin 4, Paluel 2, Paluel 1, Cattenom 1 and Blayais 2 reactors.

Any reactor restart is dependent on the green light by the ASN, but with no issues uncovered so far in the first 12 reactor files and the ASN planning to conclude the full review by end-2018, it said.

EDF operates France's 58 nuclear reactors and has struggled with extended outages since summer 2016 partly due to increased nuclear safety demands. For 2018, EDF currently has set a 395 TWh nuclear production target, which would be up sharply from record-lows in 2016 and 2017, but still only the fourth time below 400 TWh so far this century under the current fleet. On January 26, EDF has also scheduled additional fuel-saving outages at four reactors (Flamanville 2, Nogent 1, Golfech 1 and Tricastin 2) for a combined 12 weeks this summer, it said on its transparency website.

This combined with the Belleville-2 delay to end-February already amounts to a reduction of around 3 TWh in planned reactor output, Platts calculations showed.

The availability of Europe's biggest single power plant fleet is key to European power and gas markets especially during the winter months.

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

--Edited by Jonathan Loades-Carter, jonathan.carter@spglobal.com




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