EDF has not returned its copy on the feasibility of building 14 new EPRs

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Is EDF capable of building 14 EPRs in France by 2050, as President-candidate Emmanuel Macron would like? The electrician himself is not yet sure. On the sidelines of a press conference, which was held this Wednesday, April 13, Jean-Bernard Lévy, the CEO of the tricolor group, explained that he had not yet given his copy to the Head of State on the feasibility of building eight additional reactors, in addition to the six EPRs on which it has already committed.

On February 10, Emmanuel Macron unveiled a vast nuclear program. He announced, from Belfort, the construction of six EPR2s now and potentially eight new optional units in the years to come, ie 14 in total. This number is no coincidence. It corresponds to the most ambitious nuclear scenario for 2050 studied by RTE, the operator of the electricity transmission network.

What locations? What rate of construction?

But if EDF has already examined the feasibility of building the first six reactors and identified their possible locations (in Penly, in Seine-Maritime, in Gravelines, in the North, and in Bugey in Ain or in Tricastin, in Drôme), this is not yet the case for the other eight.

The electrician must therefore analyze on which sites these eight additional reactors could be installed, but also the possible rhythms for the design offices, civil engineering, equipment and assembly, i.e. the four major sequences of a construction site nuclear.

“This is work that we launched at the request of the president, who told us: what if it was 14? We have a copy to return, but it is not ready”said Jean-Bernard Lévy.

Delivery of the copy expected in the third quarter

In detail, the CEO of EDF explained that it would be necessary “more engineering supports”more people “who make concrete”, “more factories that make tanks, pumps and thousands of pieces of equipment”as “command control cabinets”but also “no more fitters who come to solder, assemble, wire and test it all”. And this, even if these eight EPR-type reactors are not “launched only in 2028, 2030 or 2032”.

The electrician explains that he must also take into account, in his study, the hypothesis of new constructions of EPR abroad, in particular in the United Kingdom, in Poland or in India, where he hopes to win contracts. important.

Jean-Bernard Lévy specified that it was about a work which had started “only a few weeks ago”. EDF should thus make its copy in “the coming months”likely in the third quarter of the year.

Turmoil between EDF and the executive

The making of these remarks in front of the press, just a few days before the second round of the presidential election, may be surprising. They intervene, moreover, after a stormy period between the electrician and the government. Indeed, in the face of soaring energy prices, the government has asked EDF to increase by 20% the volume of nuclear electricity sold at a reduced price to its competitors this year, to increase it from 100 to 120 terrawatt hours (TWh). This should cost the group around 8 billion euros. A measure that led EDF employees to a massive strike last January, with a participation rate of over 40%. Rarely, in an internal message addressed to EDF executives, Jean-Bernard Lévy had himself strongly criticized the government’s decision, citing a “real shock”.

This is not the only difference between the CEO of the electrician and the executive. In 2020, for example, Jean-Bernard Lévy did not hide his skepticism as to the usefulness for his public group of buying Arabelle turbines from GE Steam Power. Operation strongly pushed by the government. “In turbines, I can get supplies from China”, he slipped. A few months later, Jean-Bernard Lévy finally responded with the signing of an exclusive agreement for the acquisition of part of the nuclear activities of GE Steam Power, last February.

Despite these disagreements, the boss of EDF benefits from the support of the State. And, according to our information, he should go until the end of his mandate (scheduled for May 2023), if Emmanuel Macron is re-elected President of the Republic on April 24. As a reminder, Jean-Bernard Lévy is the only president of the group to have obtained a second term from the State.