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Nuclear Troubles Send French Winter Power Prices Soaring

France’s power prices for early 2024 are double the German prices for next winter as the huge French nuclear fleet continues to show signs of weak output and availability.  

The French power price for the first quarter of 2024 was at $455 (416 euros) per megawatt-hour (MWh) on Wednesday. That’s more than double the price for the same period in Germany, where the power price was at $185 (169 euros) per MWh for early 2024, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

France has had troubles at many of its nuclear reactors, half of which have been shut down for repairs and maintenance at several times over the past year.

Germany, meanwhile, took its last three nuclear power plants offline on Saturday, ending more than six decades of commercial nuclear energy use. Germany ended the nuclear power era despite continued concerns about energy security and energy supply after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the end of pipeline natural gas deliveries from Russia, which was the largest gas supplier to Europe’s biggest economy before the war.

In France, concerns about the operations at France’s large nuclear power fleet resurfaced last month after the French nuclear safety authority, ASN, told energy giant and large nuclear reactor operator EDF to review its program of reactor checks, following the finding of another crack at a nuclear power plant.

This led to an 8% one-day surge in French power prices for next year, the biggest jump since the end of January.  

For much of last year, France’s nuclear power generation was well below capacity, as more than half of the country’s reactors were offline at one point in the autumn due to repairs or maintenance.  

At the moment, French nuclear power plants are producing 17.5% less than the average output rate for 2020 and 2021. That’s down from 23% last year, so there is some progress, but concerns remain.  

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By Michael Kern for Oilprice.com

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