November 28, 2019 / 1:12 PM / 9 days ago

French regulator ASN still conducting probe at Cruas nuclear plant

PARIS (Reuters) - French nuclear safety authority ASN is still conducting an investigation at the Cruas nuclear power plant following a 5.1 magnitude earthquake on Nov. 11 that led to a halt in power generation at the site for safety checks.

Fears over potential delays in the restart of the Cruas and several other reactors operated by state-controlled utility EDF ahead of winter have boosted power prices, traders said.

A spokeswoman for ASN said on Thursday the watchdog was still exchanging information with EDF and there had been two inspections at the site in the past week.

“The investigation is still ongoing,” the spokeswoman told Reuters, adding that ASN has not cleared the reactors to restart.

EDF has said that no visible damage was found at the plant following the earthquake, but a sensor was activated, forcing it to suspend production for further safety checks.

According to regulatory information provided by company, the 900 megawatt (MW) Cruas number 2 reactor is scheduled to resume production on Monday, Dec. 2. The similar capacity Cruas 3 is expected to restart on Dec. 19, while Cruas 4 will restart on Dec. 9.

Cruas 1, which has been offline since September for a scheduled maintenance upgrade, is expected to restart on Dec. 19.

A spokeswoman for EDF said that the company was still in talks with ASN and the expected restart dates for the reactors are provided as required, based on information the company has as of now.

EDF operates France’s 58 nuclear reactors that cover around 75% of French electricity needs.

Nuclear power availability is at around 70% of total capacity on Thursday with 18 of France’s 58 nuclear reactors offline.

European power grid operators’ lobby Entso-E said in its winter outlook on Wednesday that France and Belgium face potential supply risks in case of extreme temperatures.

“The (French) nuclear maintenance plan is in the average of the last 10 years, except from mid–January to mid– February where the availability is less favourable than last year,” Entso-E said in the report.

French baseload power price for the first quarter of 2020 gained 1.2% to 55.25 euros ($60.90) a megawatt hour, the contract for January delivery was up 2.1% at 57.9 euros/MWh in wholesale trade on Thursday.

Contracts for day-ahead delivery were lifted by higher demand and less nuclear availability in France, and an expected drop in German wind power supply.

Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Toby Chopra

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