Getting the French nuclear fleet to operate as long as possible is a long-term process. The work aimed at extending the lifespan of the thirty-two oldest reactors, with a capacity of 900 megawatts (MW), by ten years will not be completed before 2036. And, already, other projects are looming: in two years, the first of twenty reactors with a capacity of 1,300 MW, commissioned between 1984 and 1994, will in turn reach the age of 40, on the Paluel site, in Seine-Maritime.

Well ahead of the fourth ten-year visits to these facilities – in-depth examinations which determine continued operation for ten additional years – a public consultation was launched on Thursday January 18. Until the end of June, citizens are invited to inform themselves and express themselves, through an online platform and during meetings and workshops, on the safety conditions in which these reactors of 1,300 MW, located on eight power plants – Belleville-sur-Loire (Cher), Cattenom (Moselle), Flamanville (Manche), Golfech (Tarn-et-Garonne), Nogent-sur-Seine (Aube), Paluel, Penly (Seine-Maritime) and Saint-Alban-du-Rhône (Isère), can be extended up to 50 years.

“It is essential that, on such an important subject, the public has its say,” recalls Christine Noiville, president of the High Committee for Transparency and Information on Nuclear Security, which is leading this consultation. In 2027, public inquiries will take place reactor by reactor, but it is good that citizens can intervene now, before decisions are made. » The Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) should issue a generic opinion on the extension of these reactors in 2025, before a case-by-case examination.

Energy policy priority

“Going from forty years of operation to fifty, even sixty years or more, that raises questions,” adds Jean-Claude Delalonde, president of the National Association of Local Information Committees and Commissions. The issues, technical but not only, must be explained as far in advance as possible. »

The extension of the fifty-six reactors in the current fleet, long desired by EDF, which operates the power plants, is a priority of energy policy. To move away from fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the country will have to produce more low-carbon electricity in the coming years. In addition to the deployment of solar and wind installations and efforts in terms of efficiency and sobriety, maintaining installed nuclear capacities must facilitate the achievement of climate objectives while guaranteeing security of energy supply.