The French, dependent on nuclear power, fear a winter without electricity

The French, dependent on nuclear power, fear a winter without electricity

NOS / Franck Renaut

NOS News

  • Frank Renaut

    France correspondent

  • Frank Renaut

    France correspondent

The French fear a power outage this winter. A large number of nuclear power plants have stopped working and it is feared that there will soon be enough electricity to power all homes and businesses.

France has eighteen nuclear power plants with a total of 56 reactors. Almost half of them are unemployed. Regular maintenance and repairs are required. Last year, in more than a dozen reactors Cracks in the tubes explore.

Thus, the production of nuclear energy in France reached a historically low level, precisely at a time when the war in Ukraine caused a global energy crisis. At the beginning of this month, climate minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher did a call to the energy company EDF for solutions to “get through the winter”. If only a portion of the reactors are in use, there is a possibility that there will be an electricity shortage in the future.


Nuclear power plants in France

“The scenario that everyone fears is a winter evening when it’s cold. People come in from work and then they all turn on the heating and the TV,” says Emmanuelle Gallichet, a physicist at CNAM University College. It will lead to a peak in electricity consumption. On a really cold day, there may not be enough power to meet the demand. Then you run the risk of a power outage.”

This means that in parts of France, or at worst, throughout the country, the electricity is out. This may take a short or long time, depending on the severity of the malfunction. In the winter of 1978, France was already experiencing blackouts. Then much of the country lost power for four hours.

France began building nuclear power plants in the 1950s, at the request of President de Gaulle, to reduce its dependence on energy from abroad. The 56 reactors are now responsible for approx 70 percent of all energy produced in France.

Businesses and citizens simply need to start using less energy. Saving money is the easiest remedy.

Emmanuel Galicet, physicist

But now that the reactors are being shut down on a large scale and there is a shortage in the international energy market, the country is in trouble. Power failure can be prevented. The network operator RTE does not exclude the possibility of reducing the voltage on the electricity network if necessary: ​​this will reduce energy consumption.

It can also preventively stop power supply to businesses or residential areas for a few hours. These measures should prevent overloading of the eaves from overloading and the network from becoming overburdened. “Businesses and citizens should also use less energy,” says researcher Emmanuelle Gallichet. “The economizer is the easiest remedy.”

A special website and application has been developed in France for this purpose: eco watt. There, the current state of the power supply is displayed in three colors. Everything goes green, orange is the danger zone if too much energy is used up and if the map turns red then energy can be cut off in certain places.

Don’t stick behind the door

With the app on their phone, consumers can see if trouble is imminent at any time of the day and then adjust their behavior: EcoWatt predicts the situation for the next three days. In TV news, the tricolor app appears every evening with the weather forecast.

Critics accuse the government of not having a stick behind the door. The French are kindly asked to provide energy, but there is no coercion or penalties. Moreover, the government keeps energy prices low with billions of dollars in subsidies. This also does not encourage the French to cut spending, is the criticism.

The same problems that currently occur in nuclear power plants cannot be solved quickly. They are the result of various causes and an unfortunate set of circumstances.

100 welders from the United States and Canada

“A lot of routine maintenance work planned for reactors in recent years has been postponed because of Corona and this is now piling up,” says Emmanuel Galichet. “In October, there was an attack on nuclear power plants that went on for weeks. This also led to new delays.”

There is a political responsibility, according to the researcher. Nuclear power plants have been neglected in recent decades. “Politicians have long assumed that we would all use less energy. As a result, little has been invested in power plants and also in knowledge. About 100 welders are now deployed from the US to make repairs to our power plants. Canada. France no longer has these professionals.” at home “.

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