In early 2019, four French EDF scientists wrote a 22 page report on load following in French nuclear reactors. The English version was first published on April 1 2020 but this has only recently been brought to my attention (ie mid Jan 2021). This report is instructive and worrying, and requires careful reading. In essence, it discusses how French nuclear engineers have managed to retrofit and configure France’s reactors so that they can follow the diurnal loads increasingly required by France’s electricity needs. It should be borne in mind that EDF’s 58 nuclear reactors are very old and past their sell-by dates. Most are between 30 and 40 years old with an average age of 33 years in 2018. Some background is necessary to explain why this report was written. French reactors have been operating since the 1980s. Since their gross output has usually exceeded French domestic requirements, especially at night, much is exported to France’s neighbours i.e. UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain. Large amounts were until recently also sent to large pumped storage schemes in Switzerland at night. These transfers have been at a considerable financial loss to EDF and the French Treasury as the prices for such supplies are understood to be low. In addition, during the day, France imports significant amounts of electricity- mainly from the renewables in Germany.
Ian Fairlie’s Blog 16th Jan 2021 read more »