The plant came online in 1978 and is the nation's oldest operational nuclear facility. It has been planned for shutdown since 2012 in fulfilment of a campaign promise by President Francois Hollande.
In August 2016 the government agreed to pay an initial sum to cover the costs of shutting down the plant. This week EDF’s board said it would receive a first payment of €490m ($527m) as well as potential additional payments until 2041 to make up for lost income. EDF said in a statement that the payments would cover decommissioning, staff retraining, taxes and “post-operation costs”.
Government authorization for EDF’s troubled 1650 MW Flamanville 3 EPR reactor, as well as for restarting its 1300 MW Paluel 2 reactor which was taken offline in early 2015, depends on the shutdown of Fessenheim as, according to a 2015 law, France’s installed nuclear generation capacity cannot exceed 63.2 GW.
The Flamanville reactor is planned to come online in late 2018.
Although trade unions had protested Fessenheim's shutdown in anticipation of job losses, EDF said it had proceeded with the agreement despite the "unanimously negative opinion" submitted by its union.
Jean-Bernard Lévy, EDF’s president and CEO, said: "With this decision on the part of its Board of Directors, EDF is guaranteeing compliance with legislation imposing a ceiling for France's installed nuclear electricity generation capacity, while at the same time safeguarding to the utmost the interests of the company and its customers.”