French curve jumps as EDF revises nuclear targets

Author: Joachim Moxon


French nuclear production in 2016 is likely be the lowest in over a decade and is expected to improve only slightly in 2017, revised targets by operator EDF now suggests.

The company announced on Wednesday evening that production targets for 2016 have been revised from 395-400TWh to 380-390TWh, while estimations for nuclear output in 2017 have been set in the range of 390-400TWh.

To put these numbers into context, annual nuclear production averaged 417TWh in the period 2005-2015. With the exception of 2009, when output fell to 390TWh, production has consistently reached above 400TWh and exceeded the target range of 410-415TWh in both 2014 and 2015.

Wholesale power prices jumped on Thursday morning, following the announcement, with Q4 ’16, Q1’17 and Cal ‘17 Baseload contracts trading up by €1.70/MWh, €1.65/MWh and €1.20/MWh compared with Wednesday’s close. These would be the largest session-on-session gains if this was the case at the close so far in 2016 for all three contracts, except the front year, which increased by €1.90/MWh on 26 April, following the announcement of government plants to implement a French carbon price floor.

Echoing the statement on 19 July, when EDF revised its annual target for 2016 from 408-412TWh, the company pointed to additional controls on steam generators as the main reason for poor nuclear availability. Nuclear authority ASN ordered the additional controls of 18 reactors after an audit of manufacturer Areva revealed omissions in the safety documentation.

“This will lead in particular to extensions of certain planned outages for refuelling, especially of Tricastin 1 and 3 reactors,” EDF said.

The 915MW reactors at Tricastin were originally scheduled to return from maintenance on 22 and 24 August, but the outages have been extended multiple times. The latest update on the RTE transparency website on Thursday morning amended the end of the maintenance period again, from 7 October to 23 December.

Four reactors are scheduled to remain unavailable throughout the winter months, including the 910MW Gravelines 5 and 880MW Bugey 5. ASN suspended a serviceability certificate for unit 2 of the Fessenheim nuclear plant in July while the 1330MW Paluel 2 is not expected to return before 31 August. Offline since 16 May 2015, the maintenance period is scheduled to reach almost 28 months, following an incident on 31 March, when a 465-tonne steam reactor was tipped over during removal.

EDF also revised its financial expectations as a result of the poor nuclear output, with 2016 targets for earnings down from €16.3bn–16.8bn to €16.3bn–16.6bn.