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French Strikes Disrupt Power Infrastructure

Strikes over the French government's controversial pension reform plan have now entered their 16th day and are weighing on the power sector, refineries, LNG terminals and even disrupting nuclear reactor maintenance. 

The ongoing protests are in response to President Emmanuel Macron's proposed changes to the pension system, including raising the retirement age by two years to 64. Macron aims to move past the pension reform and focus on other measures.

On Thursday, operator Fluxys (FLUX.BR) declared force majeure at the Dunkirk LNG terminal in northern France as the strike disrupted operations. According to an online bulletin, the disruptions are expected to last until early Friday, slashing the 70 gigawatt-hours per day terminal's delivery capacity.

A union source revealed a general meeting scheduled for Friday around noon to determine whether the strike will be extended.

Energy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher emphasized that while the strike is a constitutional right, blocking infrastructure is not.

The Gonfreville site, TotalEnergies' largest refinery in France, has also prepared a requisition order, although it has yet to be formally issued. The refinery closed on Tuesday due to the strike, with storage tanks nearing capacity.

Despite government warnings, unions pledged to continue their protests. 

"We don't have any other choice but to go on strike and to block the economy until (Macron) surrenders and withdraws his project," said Fabrice Criquet, FO-ADP union general secretary.

On Thursday morning, 37% of TotalEnergies' (TTEF.PA) operational staff participated in the strike, disrupting multiple refineries and depots. 

A CGT union official also reported that maintenance on eleven nuclear reactors had been halted, including the Penly 1 reactor, where new stress corrosion cracks were discovered earlier this month. 

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These maintenance disruptions have lasted 11 days, and French power availability has been reduced by 21 gigawatts (GW) across nuclear, thermal, and hydropower plants.

By Michael Kern for Oilprice.com

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