Bloomberg News

France Doesn’t Rule Out Closure of Oldest Nuclear Plant

December 16, 2011

(Updates with comment from minister in second paragraph.)

Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- France hasn’t ruled out the permanent shutdown of its oldest nuclear plant at Fessenheim because of safety concerns, Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said.

“The closure is not excluded, neither is it being announced at this point,” she said today in an interview on France Info radio when asked about the future of the facility in eastern France. “We can’t use an ideological approach to nuclear safety.”

The opposition Socialists pledged last month to shut Fessenheim if they win next year’s presidential elections. The safety of France’s 58 reactors, all operated by Electricite de France SA in the nation that depends on atomic power for three- quarters of its energy needs, came to the fore after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown earlier this year.

France’s nuclear regulator will publish the results of safety checks at the country’s nuclear plants next month. The stress tests were ordered by the European Commission in the wake of the Japanese disaster and are designed to test whether atomic installations can withstand earthquakes, floods and failures in cooling and power systems.

In July, the regulator known as the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire ruled that EDF could run the Unit 1 reactor at Fessenheim, which was commissioned in 1978, for another 10 years as long as improvements were made. The plant is located near the border with Germany and Switzerland.

The watchdog recommended the creation of an alternative source of cooling water to the Alsace canal and wants EDF to enlarge the plant’s concrete base, which is thinner than others in France, Kosciusko-Morizet said.

“I want to wait for the results of the post-Fukushima audit before drawing conclusions about Fessenheim,” she said.

--Editors: Stephen Cunningham,

Rudy Ruitenberg at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the reporters on this story: Tara Patel in Paris at tpatel2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net


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