Saturday, 15 May, 2021

Fessenheim: Holland scores a point, but the closure is not sure


François Hollande is he winning the game on Fessenheim? On Tuesday, EDF’s board of directors approved an agreement providing for compensation for the electrician for an early shutdown of the nuclear power plant.

The Fessenheim nuclear power station, the end of the tunnel?

François Hollande will he win his bet by closing Fessenheim? Too early to tell today. However, the president has moved the lines but in a gesture that does not bode well for the future. This morning, the board of directors of EDF approved an agreement providing for compensation of the electrician by the State for an early closure of the oldest of French nuclear power plants. EDF should receive compensation of some 490 million euros. The fate of Fessenheim is not decided but a first step has been taken. EDF must now file a request for the abrogation of operation. This will be decided at a future council. If the vote is positive again, the Alsatian power plant should shut down at the end of 2018 or early 2019 when the Flamanville EPR will be connected to the network. “EDF is committing to bring it into compliance with the law imposing a cap on the capacity of nuclear power generation installed in France,” EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy said in a press release. Exact. While knowing that today’s decision and those that will be taken in the coming weeks can always be called into question by the future president, elected next May. LR candidate François Fillon is in favor of pursuing de Fessenheim …

The executive put all his weight in the balance

We are not there (yet) and today, for the first time, the Fessenheim file, which until now was illustrated by its immobility, has moved. He moved because the executive put all its weight in the balance to convince Jean-Bernard Lévy and the independent directors to vote in favor of compensation. The CEO of EDF saw François Hollande at the Elysee Palace on January 3 and Bernard Cazeneuve in Matignon yesterday. The President and the Prime Minister were not alone in the maneuver. There was also Ségolène Royal. According to Le Parisien, the Minister of Ecology would have “met personally with the five other independent directors to ensure their support.” His arguments ? Recall the relationship of dependence between EDF and its reference shareholder. In a few weeks, the state must participate in the amount of 3 billion euros in the capital increase of the electrician. Then there is the Flamanville file. EDF must obtain the extension of the administrative authorization period necessary to continue construction of the EPR. Because following the delays of the site, this deadline expires on April 10th. Finally, EDF is waiting for another authorization. That of the operation of reactor number 2 at Paluel (Seine-Maritime), stopped since a steam generator fell almost a year ago. “The government exerted extraordinary pressure on the independent directors of EDF and an unacceptable blackmail on the company”, estimates the CGT in a press release.

A symbolic victory that satisfies no one

The undermining has paid off. As the six directors of EDF appointed by the State could not take part in the vote due to a situation of conflict of interest, there remained the six employee directors and the six independent directors. Opposed to the closure of Fessenheim, the former voted against, the latter approved. Ultimately, it was the voice of CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy, preponderant in the event of dissension, which tipped the scales. François Hollande therefore obtained a first victory. A symbolic victory that satisfies no one. In Alsace, the 850 employees are more mobilized than ever. Just two weeks ago, EDF’s central works council unanimously issued a negative opinion on the early closure. In 2011 and 2013, the Nuclear Safety Authority indicated that the two Fessenheim reactors could continue to operate for another ten years. On the side of the ecologists, it is also the frustration. EELV MEP Michèle Rivasi recalls in a press release “that the agreement signed between EELV and the PS in November 2011 stipulated an immediate shutdown of Fessenheim”. And she goes on to note that François Hollande’s commitment 41 “could unfortunately end in renunciation since this too late closure could allow the opposition to relaunch the plant after a long procedure.”

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