French nuclear power production is at its lowest levels since 1998, according to a new report by grid operators published Tuesday.
France’s production of nuclear power has been steadily falling since May, according to Reuters. Though the report didn’t state the cause of France’s nuclear collapse, it did say that solar power production rose 15 percent while wind power output fell 41 percent compared to a year ago.
This shift is likely due to a law passed by the French government last November intended to prop up solar power, which requires France to reduce the share of nuclear energy production from 75 percent to only 50 percent by 2025. The legislation could force Electricite de France (EDF), the country’s state-controlled utility, to close 18 to 20 of its 58 nuclear reactors by 2025. France’s nuclear industry is one of the most advanced in the world and is still very active in developing nuclear technology and is building some of the world’s most advanced reactors.
France currently operates 63,200 megawatts of nuclear capacity, according to the World Nuclear Association.
The law requiring nuclear reactors to be shut down in favor of solar power is extremely controversial in France. It stems from a promise made by French President François Hollande during the 2012 election to prop up his temporary alliance with the anti-nuclear Green party.
EDF owns most of France’s reactors, but the company has serious financial problems and many of its projects have credit ratings below investment grade. The company is more than $40 billion in debt. Shares in EDF have fallen 55 percent over the past year, reducing its market capitalization to only $23.6 billion. The French government owns 85 percent of EDF.
Shutting down reactors is a major policy shift as reactors and fuel products and services are a major French export. The country is the world’s largest net exporter of electricity and mainly sells to Italy, Great Britain, Switzerland, Belgium and Spain. This earns France about $3.38 billion annually.
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