In 1974 the French government made the decision to rapidly expand the nuclear power production capacity in France just after the first oil crisis. This decision was made in the context of a France with substantial competence in engineering, but with few autochthonous energy resources. Nuclear energy, with the cost of fuel is a relatively small part of the total cost, in this sense a reduction in imports was achieved and greater energy security was achieved.
As a result of the 1974 decision, France currently has a significant level of energy independence and almost the lowest cost of electric power in Europe. It also has a very low level of CO 2 emissions per capita of electric power generation, since more than 90% of its electricity is generated through nuclear energy or hydropower.
In mid-2010 the International Energy Agency urged France to increasingly assume a strategic role as a provider of low-cost, low-energy consumption for the whole of Europe instead of focusing on the energy independence that had led the policy since 1973.
Nuclear power plants in France
Currently, 19 nuclear power plants are operating in France, that is, for the generation of electric power. Most of these nuclear facilities have several nuclear reactors. In this way, France has a total of 59 nuclear reactors capable of generating a total power of 63,130 megawatts (MWe). All nuclear reactors installed in France are nuclear pressurized water reactors (PWR).
- The Belleville nuclear power plant has 2 nuclear reactors providing a net power of 2620 megawatts of electricity.
- The Blayais nuclear power plant has 4 nuclear reactors capable of obtaining a net power of 3640 MWe.
- The Bugey nuclear power plant has 4 nuclear reactors providing a net power of 3580 megawatts of electricity.
- The Cattenom nuclear facility has 4 nuclear reactors providing a net power of 5,200 megawatts of electricity.
- The Chinon nuclear facility has 4 x nuclear reactors with a total net power of 3620 MWe.
- The Chooz nuclear power plant has 2 nuclear reactors providing a net power of 3,000 megawatts of electricity.
- The Civaux nuclear power plant has 2 nuclear reactors with a net capacity of 2990 megawatts.
- The Cruas nuclear plant has 4 nuclear reactors capable of obtaining a net power of 3660 MWe.
- The nuclear power plant of Dampierre has 4 nuclear reactors providing a net power of 3560 MWe.
- The Fessenheim nuclear power plant has 2 nuclear reactors providing a net power of 1760 megawatts of electricity.
- The Flamanville facility has 2 nuclear reactors providing a net power of 2660 megawatts of electricity.
- The Golfech nuclear power plant has 2 nuclear reactors providing a net power of 2620 MWe.
- The Gravelines nuclear plant has 6 nuclear reactors providing a net power of 5460 megawatts of electricity.
- The Nogent nuclear power plant has 2 nuclear reactors providing a net power of 2620 MWe.
- The Paluel nuclear power plant has 4 nuclear reactors providing a net power of 5320 megawatts of electricity.
- The Penly nuclear power plant has 2 nuclear reactors providing a net power of 2660 megawatts of electricity.
- The Saint-Alban nuclear power plant has 2 nuclear reactors providing a net power of 2670 megawatts of electricity.
- The Saint-Laurent nuclear power plant has 2 nuclear reactors providing a net power of 1830 megawatts of electricity.
- The Tricastin nuclear power plant has 4 nuclear reactors offering a net power of 3660 megawatts.
Recent energy policy in France
In 1999, a debate in the French Parliament reaffirmed three main aspects of French energy policy:
- security of supply (France imports more than half of its energy),
- respect for the environment (especially greenhouse gases)
- and due attention to the management of radioactive waste.
It was pointed out that natural gas had no economic advantage over nuclear energy for base load energy, and its prices were very volatile. Despite "intense efforts", no way was found for renewable energies and energy saving measures to replace nuclear energy in the near future.
At the beginning of 2003 the first national energy debate was announced in France, in response to a "great demand from the French", 70% of which considered themselves ill-informed on energy issues. A survey showed that 67% of people in France thought that protecting the environment was the sole objective of energy policy in France. However, 58% thought that nuclear energy was the cause of climate change, while only 46% thought it was due to the burning of coal or other fossil fuels. The debate focused on preparing the way for the definition of the energy matrix for the next 30 years in the context of sustainable development at European level and globally.
In 2005, France established the guidelines for energy and security policy through a law. The role of nuclear energy would be fundamental to this energy policy, together with specific decisions on the European Water Pressure Reactor (EPR), in particular to build an initial nuclear reactor in order to make a decision in 2015 on the construction of a series of around 40 nuclear reactors. It also establishes a research policy for the development of innovative energy technologies in line with the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, highlighting the role of renewable energies in the production of electricity, in thermal and transport uses.
At the beginning of 2008 a presidential decree established a high level of the Nuclear Policy Council (Conseil Politique Nucleaire - CPN), which underscores the importance of nuclear technologies in France in terms of economic power, particularly the power source.
Current situation of nuclear energy in France
France ranks second in the world, behind the United States for the amount of nuclear energy and first for population density. EDF is the national electricity company and the world's largest producer of electrical energy of nuclear origin.
Certain first-generation French nuclear power plants, up to now in operation, have an uncertain future due to the nuclear accident in Japan.
However, the French reactors operate with a different technology than the Japanese one. These work by the system called double circuit, this means that the first closed circuit comes into direct contact with the reactor to more than 300 degrees, then enters into communication with the second circuit that generates enough steam for the operation of the turbines of steam generators of electricity. On the other hand, at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, steam was produced directly by the only circuit as it passed directly through the interior of the nuclear reactor.
In France there are not too many parties that consider a change in the nuclear energy model. It must be taken into account that 86% of the energy generated by France is produced by nuclear power plants.
At present, France produces electricity that is cheaper than other countries and less aggressive in CO 2emissions .
Development of nuclear fusion. ITER Project
In the south of France, in Cadarache, the third generation of nuclear energy is being researched and developed by fusion through the ITER project. The enormous costs of this work are financed by an international consortium formed by the European Union, Russia, China, Japan, the United States of America, India and South Korea. This type of nuclear generator will be much safer, there will be less nuclear waste and it will produce three times more electrical energy.
The ITER project is an international project that aims to create an experimental nuclear fusion reactor, capable of producing a melting plasma with more power than the power required to heat the plasma itself. The reactor itself is designed to be equivalent to a zero power (net) reactor. Specifically, ITER is a deuterium-tritium reactor in which the confinement of plasma is obtained in a magnetic field inside a machine called Tokamak.
On June 16, 2016, the ITER Board of Directors officially announced that the initial forecast for the First Plasma ignition date is ahead of more than 5 years, which indicates December 2025 as a more realistic date. On November 17, 2016, the Board of Directors announced that the deuterium-tritium fusion experiments themselves will begin in 2035.
The operational duration of the nuclear fusion plant is expected to be around 20 years and it is expected that, starting in 2037, the plant will start the dismantling phase, with a duration of 5 years.