Skip to content

France could close ‘up to 17’ nuclear reactors by 2025

August 5, 2017

By Paul Homewood



The National Grid is busy building a new 1000MW interconnector to France, due to open in 2020.

But will France have any surplus power to sell us?

Nicolas Hulot, France’s environment minister, announced last month that France could close “up to 17 nuclear reactors” by 2025, as France 24 reported at the time:


Nicolas Hulot, France’s environment minister, announced on Monday that France could close “up to 17 nuclear reactors” by 2025.

Hulot says the move aims to bring policy into line with a law on renewable energy that aims to reduce French reliance on nuclear power to 50 percent. France currently derives close to 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. The push for diversification comes on the heels of other high-profile stances taken by Hulot and the administration of President Emmanuel Macron, including a ban on new fossil fuel exploration an end to the sale of gas and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040, and a recently announced climate conference to be held on December 12 for the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Paris Accord.

“It’s understandable that in order to reach that target, we will have to close a number of reactors … it could be up to 17 reactors, we’ll have to see,” Hulot told French radio station RTL. “Every reactor comes with its own unique economic, social and even security context.”


Wind and solar currently supply only 5% of France’s power, and any strategy that throws out a quarter of its generation, supplied by nuclear, to be replaced by renewables is asking for trouble.



But where does this leave Britain?

Coal and gas are pretty much bit part players in France. Whereas nuclear runs at over 40GW all year, gas peaks at around 8GW in winter, so there seems little chance of it taking up the slack.



To make make matters worse, France is a net exporter of power to most of its neighbours.



At times of high demand and low supply, where will the axe fall? And at what price will any power be available at?



The cost of the interconnector is said to be about £500 million, and part of this will be recouped by via capacity market payments. These are what the National Grid will earn providing standby capacity.

On current projections, these could well generate annual payments of £25 million, assuming a price of £25/KW. Currently the government is offering contracts up to 15 years, but it is pretty certain that such payments will continue long after 2035.

It is quite possible that the National Grid will recover the whole capital cost from such subsidies.

On top of that, of course, it will be able to sell all of the electricity it imports.

No doubt this all makes for good business, as far as the Grid and its French partner RTE is concerned.

But if France seems determined to commit energy suicide, should the UK really be jumping off the cliff with it?




Following Macron’s election in May, France’s Environment Ministry was renamed Le ministère de la Transition écologique et solidaire.

This translates as The Department of ecological and social Transition. So nothing to do with protecting the environment as such, and certainly nothing to do with energy.

If that was not bad enough, its minister is a certain Nicolas Hulot. According to Wikipedia:

Nicolas Hulot is a French journalist and environmental activist. He is the founder and president of the Fondation Nicolas Hulot, an environmental group established in 1990.

Sounds rather like an even pottier version of nutty George Monbiot.

I am pretty sure the French did not vote for this sort of eco loon lunacy.

But I am even surer the British did not either.

  1. tom0mason permalink
    August 5, 2017 8:38 pm

    OK UK you go ahead and build as many (conventional) power stations as possible NOW, and prepare to sell (at a premium) the excess to the rest of the increasingly energy poor Europeans.

  2. August 5, 2017 9:41 pm

    A lot of French reactors are 30-40 years old already. They can’t go on forever and running costs must be rising with age, not to mention safety.

    • August 5, 2017 9:47 pm

      Well before electricity generation plants approach the end of their useful life wouldn’t a government plan replacement Baseload Generation?
      Fossil Fuel, Nuclear or maybe Fairy Dust?

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 5, 2017 11:26 pm

      And the new design they have conned our morons into getting taxpayers to fund doesn’t work.

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      August 6, 2017 3:16 am

      But those nuclear reactors were originally designed with a 40-year working lifespan, and the first ones completed are reaching that age this year. Decommissioning them and dealing with their nuclear fuel is expected to cost on the order of €85 billion.

      But the alternatives are even more expensive: extending their lifespan would cost €100 billion, while replacing them with new construction would run €250 billion to €300 billion.

      • Curious George permalink
        August 6, 2017 5:46 pm

        First, I doubt that the decision to close them was made on technical grounds. Second, what is a measly 85 billion compared to a 4 trillion carbon tax, advocated by Professors Stern and Stiglitz? They are talking real money.

  3. Tasa permalink
    August 5, 2017 9:44 pm

    Google South Australia. Jay Weatherill. Blackouts

  4. Alex permalink
    August 5, 2017 10:30 pm

    FINALLY!! Some common sense!!!

  5. Gerry, England permalink
    August 5, 2017 11:27 pm

    Still laughing at the thought of a minister called Monsieur Hulot. Couldn’t be more appropriate. Can we rename Greg Clark Norman Wisdom?

    • August 7, 2017 2:20 pm


      Nah – doesn’t fit.

      • Dave Ward permalink
        August 7, 2017 7:03 pm

        At least Norman Wisdom put a smile on generations of peoples faces – something I very much doubt Monsieur Hulot will be able to emulate…

      • Stuart Brown permalink
        August 7, 2017 7:52 pm

        Dave, maybe he could though –

        ‘He is clumsy and somewhat naive of the evolving world around him’


  6. August 6, 2017 12:06 am

    Is it possible for France to keep its nuclear reactors going FOR EXPORT ENERGY only? So France assists other countries with meeting their CO2 targets while meeting its own by other means (and buys from itself as needed)?

    With interconnections, why is the physical location of the energy source important? In principle, if France sold their reactors to Hungary, wouldn’t Hungary then be compliant?

  7. Geoff Sherrington permalink
    August 6, 2017 1:49 am

    Gobsmacked. Anyone know the real reason for the French anti-nuclear plan? Geoff

    • dave permalink
      August 6, 2017 6:45 am

      “…the real reason…”

      Is that half the population of France has a phobia about nuclear power stations. I was in a village this May from where one could see the – reassuring – steam from the Tricastin* nuclear power plant. The perfectly ordinary woman, who was giving me the keys to the holiday-let, was genuinely frightened of the plant. It should be “Ferme!!”

      The politicians note this; many of them have the same panicky emotions. In addition, their tiny, arty minds can not do simple science and simple arithmetic. They really think the pathetic little collections of windmills now disfiguring the country-side (one of these is also visible from this village) will take over the job.

      Three-quarters of new houses in France are built with strictly electric heating. Apparently, one degree C drop in winter temperatures increases electricity demand by 10%. God help the fools when a real winter (cold, grey, still weather**) hits them – sometime after they have saved themselves from “a Fukishima.”

      * You can’t buy ‘Tricastin’ wine any longer. The producers had to change the name because sales were dropping, as many consumers were convinced it was radioactive.

      ** Like our 1962-63 freeze.

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        August 6, 2017 8:32 am

        In most rural areas there is a level of opposition to éolienne too.

      • sarastro92 permalink
        August 7, 2017 2:10 am

        My canned response is always: Give the majority what they want. if they can’t understand, physics, economics and engineering, maybe “Freeze in the dark” pedagogy applied for a decade or two may do the trick. Meanwhile the Chinese and their allies will rule the world, as the sun sets on the senile West.

      • dave permalink
        August 7, 2017 6:33 am

        You can join a tour of the innards of the plant – but you have to apply a month in advance to get security clearance. They show you a lump of ore, about as big as a fist, at one point and say: “This is what you have to pull out of the ground to power a house fof fifty years.”

  8. It doesn't add up... permalink
    August 6, 2017 1:57 am

    It’s much worse than that:

    FAB Link Manuel-Exeter 1.4GW early planning
    Aquind Rouen-Portsmouth 2GW licence granted
    IFA2 Tourbe-Daedalus 1GW early planning
    Channel Cable Paleul-Ninfield 1.4GW pre construction
    Eleclink Coquelles-Folkstone 1GW in development
    IFA Calais-Folkestone 2GW operational
    Total France 8.8GW

    NEMO Zeebrugge-Richborough 1GW pre construction.

    We should count in Belgium because of its proximity and dependence on France for power, and because it has been having problems with its own nuclear reactors.

    So that’s 9.8 GW we could be supplying to keep the lights on in the continent. It’s a huge risk – should we trust the French not to indulge in black(out)mail? They could bring the economy to its knees by shutting down the links, or demanding power to make good its shortfall.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 6, 2017 11:18 am

      I expect the links can work in both directions so we could export power – if we had any to spare. It is possible to have excess wind or solar power and export it, but….where this happens it is not really very profitable. California PAYS neighbour states to take excess power to avoid frying their grid. Norway gets cheap Danish power when they have too much and being mainly hydro, Norway can easily adjust their generation. Trying to export to similar wind and solar nutjobs like us is unlikely to work too well as they might be in the same situation of excess power.

  9. markl permalink
    August 6, 2017 3:32 am

    It amazes me that the people of Europe allow themselves to be conquered without a fight.

  10. August 6, 2017 6:15 am

    This represents an amazing transformation. 20 years ago the French nuclear industry stood atop the world. How did it go so wrong? I guess the answer may be that its success depended on cloning Westinghouse technology and selling it to the world while the US nuclear industry fell foul of the establishment anti-nuclear faction and went into terminal decline. Once France started to try and develop its own technology (the EPR and fast reactors), it all went pear-shaped. The politicians have now put the final nail in the European nuclear future.

    And now we have Greg Clark announcing a review into how his climate change policies will continue to hasten the destruction of our electricity supply.

    • Athelstan permalink
      August 6, 2017 6:37 am

      Hmm Phillip, are you saying that, the French instead of admitting that they’re not up to the job of continuance of nuclear fission power development and by using the pretext of the green agenda are covering up their technological inadequacies?

      Which then begs the question, why are we paying the French [and Chinese] through the nose to develop and construct a ‘new’ nuclear generation facility at Hinkley?

      Are we mad? Must be so.

      • August 6, 2017 6:53 am

        I doubt it has anything to do with technological inadequacies – it is just politics.

        We are paying through the nose for Hinkley C because of the incompetence (idiocy) of Ed Davey followed by the incompetence (idiocy) of the May Government to cancel it when they had the golden opportunity.

        I don’t think we are mad (on a personal level, apart that is from a large proportion of the voters). It is the establishment which should be in the loony bin.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        August 6, 2017 11:26 am

        Yes, so it would seem. Neither the reactor at Flammanville or the one in Finland are working yet, are years late and billions over budget. I think that suggests technological inadequacy. There is also forged certification of components at the French plant.

      • tux1952 permalink
        August 8, 2017 4:35 pm

        Loony Bin…aka… Parliament…

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      August 6, 2017 9:51 am

      Only Helm is being specifically forbidden to include green levies from his report. Since it is these that are at the heart of the problem, and Clark must know that unless he is a complete cretin, this can only be an exercise in deliberate obfuscation.

      When exactly did British politics become this corrupted? And why, for heaven’s sake?

      • Gerry, England permalink
        August 6, 2017 11:13 am

        Tony Blair’s arrival as PM. Wise civil servants who would give impartial and unwelcome advice were replaced with nodding dogs. And we had the liar-in-chief, Alistair Campbell.

  11. Athelstan permalink
    August 6, 2017 6:30 am

    “It’s understandable that in order to reach that target, we will have to close a number of reactors … it could be up to 17 reactors, we’ll have to see,” Hulot told French radio station RTL. “Every reactor comes with its own unique economic, social and even security context.”

    Er what?

    Hasn’t anybody told Hulot that, nuclear fission is nothing to do with burning fossil fuels and insofar as CO₂ is concerned – nuclear fission generated electricity is ‘clean’! Madness, absolute madness but then we [UK] allowed a green zealot named Bryony to draft the Climate change act of perfidy…………………….as long ago as 2008. Thus in the great green scam, Britain is way ahead of France and for the life of me I cannot fathom why the Kermits are trying to catch up, I’d always had the French down as very cynical bunch. Crikey but pulling up their nuclear roots – just what are they on?

    I see also that, mad Manny Macaroni has promised

    end to the sale of gas and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040

    Ring a bell – anyone?

    The UK ban has a very similar timescale, the question begs, are the French going to put up with it, the supine, ovine Brits are nothing like the French – when it comes to protesting and street demonstrations.
    Furthermore, the British communique to ban diesel and petrol engines by 2040 – was quite evidently a decision which was taken remotely and nowhere near, nothing whatsoever to do with Westminster……………and here’s me thinking we were coming out of the Berlin Empire. How come they [Berlin-Brussels] and their massive car cartel – are still calling the shots insofar as British transport policy is concerned? And once more the peoples wishes are ignored, no, not ignored actually given ‘the finger’ more like. This green totalitarian dictatorship needs to be shoved somewhere where the sun don’t shine and the tumbrels need to roll – again.

    The EU run by green/Communist idiots for the sake of the giant corporate blob [there’s an irony in there somewhere……….] and as a consequence and nothing new here: stuff to the people!

  12. dave permalink
    August 6, 2017 7:04 am

    It is a bit warm in France at the moment.

    The headline on Sky News:

    “Scientists today gave a stark warning that heat waves like this…”


    My grandson had changed to ‘Spongebob Squarepants’. Finally, something with intellectual gravitas!

    • dave permalink
      August 6, 2017 7:13 am

      The Arctic seems to have decided to disobey Professor Wadhams, again. It is so naughty.

    • dave permalink
      August 6, 2017 7:41 pm

      Wadhams will say “Check with me in September” and then in September he will ignore you.

  13. mwhite permalink
    August 6, 2017 8:58 am

    “The cost of the interconnector is said to be about £500 million”

    Paid for by the British/French bill payers(probably a loan so there will be interest on top of that)

  14. Mike Jackson permalink
    August 6, 2017 9:43 am

    But Nicolas does have a rather splendid rose named after him!

    Macron is on course to be a disaster. He’s a dilettante who, like most of us who post on here and in newspaper columns, has goodish ideas but no practical experience on how to put them into practice. So he appoints an environmentalist to the environment department and a businesswoman to head Business which on the face of it is logical but takes no account of the realities of running the political end of it.

    There was a few years ago (when Blair expanded university education) a fairly caustic comment that when you phoned for a plumber you wanted someone who could mend a pipe, not someone with a degree in the theory of plumbing. What Macron is doing is similar but in reverse. When we need someone to take the political/neutral approach we’re landed with someone who is too close to the sharp end to do what needs to be done.

    And in environmental matters that could be fatal, as we all know. Hulot is likely to close the nuclear stations because “it’s the right thing to do for the planet”. That it is the wrong thing to do for the people of France will be a concept he will struggle to get his head round.

  15. Green Sand permalink
    August 6, 2017 10:13 am

    Anybody know how long a ‘statutory outage’ lasts?

    Sizewell B ‘Next statutory outage – Nov-2017’

    • Stuart Brown permalink
      August 6, 2017 4:09 pm

      There’s a link to EDF’s REMIT page from the Sizewell B page, linked from the one you’re looking at.

      Select events for next 1 year and Asset ID of SIZB-2. Looks like it reduces power from the beginning of Nov and is then down until the 13th Dec. SIZB-1 comes up to power a few days later.

      If I recall, this reactor has to be taken out of service every 18 months for re-fuelling. But why in the middle of winter?

      Several reactors were down or at reduced output at various times last winter. I could be persuaded there is an anti-nuclear mole in charge of scheduling outages…

      • Green Sand permalink
        August 6, 2017 4:22 pm

        Thanks, will have a look. Be interesting to watch if things go according to plan.

  16. AndyG55 permalink
    August 6, 2017 11:38 am

    I don’t see the problem.

    By 2025, France will be under Islamic control anyway..

    So they won’t need electricity.

  17. CheshireRed permalink
    August 6, 2017 12:13 pm

    These schemes are obviously designed to tick boxes for our insane CC Act, if only at one tiny step at a time. Interconnectors, tidal, wind, bio at Drax and more recently Gove’s ICE ban; all to help hit our ‘carbon targets’. Meanwhile Germany goes large on coal, China and India do 1500 between them and the ROTW another 900. Our efforts thus rendered entirely futile yet still they plough on regardless. It’s like a comedy gone darkly wrong. Honestly, I think we have an entire body politic that’s completely lost the plot.

    • dave permalink
      August 6, 2017 3:54 pm

      “…entire body politic…”

      It’s gone Don Quixote on our asses.

  18. August 6, 2017 4:01 pm

    ‘I am pretty sure the French did not vote for this sort of eco loon lunacy.’

    They must have or they wouldn’t be getting it now, but did they understand the long-term implications of what they were voting for? Unlikely.

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      August 6, 2017 8:29 pm

      No, oldbrew, this isn’t what the French voted for which is why Macron’s popularity has fallen further and faster than an elephant without a parachute.

      The French were all set to elect Fillon by a comfortable margin until he got royally screwed by (probably) the Socialists or (possibly) the civil service.

      [Anyone who thinks Le Canard Enchainé has suddenly developed that level of investigative journalism really is deluded. And whether Fillon “has a case to answer” we may find out in the fullness of time. It’s gone all quiet on that front since the initial sudden fit of morality!]

      With the Socialists dead in the water and no-one yet quite ready to hand the keys of the Elysée to Ms Le Pen options were limited. But there was never any suggestion during his campaign that Macron was going to do anything quite as daft as connive at the destruction of the French energy generation system. With 75% of electricity coming from that source there was never the “need” to close down generating capacity in order to reduce CO2 emissions. In fact there is every likelihood that this will have, if only marginally, the opposite effect.

      Hulot is an eco-fanatic, one of those who is anti-nuclear on environmental principle. If this comes to pass that will be one more nail in France’s industrial coffin.

      • Athelstan permalink
        August 7, 2017 12:37 am

        Wasn’t Fillon going to offer a referendum on the €zero or, French membership of the Brussels club?

        Le Pen was a choice too far for most of the frogs but neither could Berlin afford to have Fillon in the Palais d’Elysee ref above. A plastic figurine was required and suddenly as if by magic mutti got her boy elected – funny is that – eh?

        Wheels within wheels, how much did the Berlin puppet master gerrymander the destruction of mother may during her ill advised rush to the country…………Berlin and in cahoots with the UK establishment and Gina Miller’s mate who resides in the big apple?

        The liberal authoritarians who were shocked to their core after Britain voted to get out of the club going nowhere, have fought back with all effort and major political heavy lifting but really – Macron? Yak, yak – he’s a fekking clown and the French will have him for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

      • August 7, 2017 8:36 am

        The oldest nuclear sites would have to be closed down anyway, or expensively upgraded. This is not so much a policy, more a fact of life.

  19. tom0mason permalink
    August 7, 2017 1:34 am

    Eh, come on guys this is France we are talking about, they’ve done the major bit — made an announcement, now its all about how to finesse some “Plus ça change, plus c’est pareil” around so it LOOKS like something happened.

  20. August 7, 2017 3:34 am

    The French are right to be looking for better technology than Generation I&II Nuclear Power Plants.

    Unfortunately they suffer from “Stupid Government” so they will ignore anything that makes sense such as small factory built, intrinsically safe, Generation IV NPPs delivered to site on a truck and installed below grade. Likely they will ignore gas powered electricity generation as well.

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      August 7, 2017 6:09 pm

      As long as Hulot is in charge of energy that will go without saying.

      What genuinely mystifies me is why the British government has’t gone down the modular route. What should mystify me but simply pisses me off mightily is why the government (I nearly said my government but since I’m currently living in France that would be a bit presumptuous) is reluctant to explain that to the people. Is that arrogant or what?

  21. duker permalink
    August 7, 2017 5:21 am

    France has ‘too much’ nuclear from an efficency point of view. This means the nuclear generation has to follow the demand curve where as in other countries they use nuclear for baseload purposes. With the weekend dropoff in demand, some nuclear plants have to effectively shut down. The other issue is French rely heavily on electric resistance heating for their homes, so demand skyrockets when they have a cold snap, usually met by importing power from Germany.
    These may be problems we would have love to have. Low power prices encouraging electricity for home heating, only needing to import power for a few occasions a year.

    • dave permalink
      August 7, 2017 6:39 am

      The original plan, when the oil shock of 1973 happened, was to build 170 reactors!
      The original plan was for France to be free, proud, and unafraid!

    • Geoff Sherrington permalink
      August 7, 2017 6:52 am


      Did you account for exported French nuclear when writing that?
      So what if nuclear has to follow demand? It seems to have coped so far.
      Have you seen a comparison of French nuclear per MWh compared with other types of generation? People tend to go the most economic way when purchasing, all other things equal.

  22. Mike Higton permalink
    August 7, 2017 9:23 pm

    There used to be more joined-up thinking in France. As their nuclear programme evolved they developed the reactor designs to allow better load following, at the expense of less efficient fuel use.
    They also used split-tariff metering as standard to push some of the load into off-peak times. For example, the domestic water heaters (used in the majority of homes) come on automatically during the off-peak periods.
    Consequently their demand does not have such a large variation between max and min as we see here.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: