French forced withdrawal of nuclear plants at worst time

France’s withdrawal of four nuclear power stations in recent days, following the discovery of faults at some units and suspicions of issues at others, comes at a critical time for the European energy market, already deep in crisis, and could have a knock-on effect throughout Europe, as was the case during a previous round of problems at French facilities in the winter of 2016-17.

France is a backbone of Europe’s energy market as the country usually exports electricity to neighboring countries, helping steady price fluctuations. However, the country is currently without nearly one quarter of its electricity generation capacity, meaning it will need to forget about electricity exports for a while and import instead.

According to French grid operator RTE, the country imported 11.8 GW from Germany and Belgium yesterday, while demand is expected to peak today.

French Ecological Transition Minister Barbara Pompili has urged energy company EDF to work around the clock to repair the damages, cracks on reactor pipes, for a swift return of its nuclear power stations,

Energy market conditions in Europe are currently completely different to what they were in 2016-17, when France was forced to temporarily shut down nuclear power units over technical issues. At the time, the wholesale electricity price in Greece was 114 euros per MWh, while, at present, it is over 300 euros per MWh.