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Nuclear Reactor Disruptions Unlikely To Cause Blackouts In France

France doesn’t expect to see shortages of electricity or power blackouts even though nuclear power output in the country will be lower this year due to disruptions to nuclear reactors maintenance amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

France is one of the worst affected European countries in the pandemic and is gradually emerging from one of the strictest lockdowns aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Electricity consumption has dropped because of reduced industrial activity, while the pandemic and measures to contain it has disrupted the maintenance schedule of French utility giant EDF, which operates nearly 60 reactors in France.

As of Thursday, nuclear power accounted for more than 60 percent of France’s real-time power generation mix, according to grid operator RTE.

The head of RTE, Francois Brottes, said at a news conference on Thursday that despite the changes in electricity consumption trends during the health crisis, the grid operator has ensured that production and consumption are balanced in real time, ensuring the continuity of electricity supply in the country.

Electricity supply will be ensured in the summer of 2020, even in cases of heatwaves, Brottes said, adding that France’s security of electricity supply will be ensured in the winter 2020-2021 – the period with the highest electricity demand – as well.

According to RTE, household electricity consumption in France slightly increased during the pandemic, while industry, especially manufacturing, has seen consumption fall by almost 27 percent, while the railway sector has seen power demand plunge by 57 percent.

Utility EDF, for its part, said in April that its maintenance schedule for nuclear reactors was significantly affected by the pandemic, and it was adjusting its maintenance outage plan to optimize output capacity.

“Working alongside the transmission system operator (RTE), and to help provide a continuous supply of power throughout the winter of 2020-2021, a number of nuclear reactors may have to be taken off line this coming summer and autumn in order to save fuel on these power plants,” EDF said.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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