France, a leader in nuclear power, is undertaking a massive program to overhaul its national fleet. According to EurActiv, leaders in the nuclear industry are emphasizing the importance of maintaining and developing its domestic nuclear assets with an eye toward France monetizing its nuclear know-how on the global energy market. Of interest are opportunities for France in China and Russia. China’s aggressive undertaking of nuclear development makes it a primary target for nuclear contractors, while Russia holds potential for nuclear exportation, reports the source.
“The great streamlining program provides a basis to strengthen production tools of component suppliers, which would allow the French sector to become more competitive on the export market,” said Gérard Kottman, Director of Valinox Nucléaire and President of the Association of French Nuclear Exporters. “This depends of course on whether the French industrial sector can profit from the maintenance market. If this happens, it would be invaluable to exporting French know-how.”
This is happening even in the face of local resistance to France's reliance on nuclear energy, particularly after the Fukushima incident in Japan. Many French citizens are calling on their country to shut down old reactors and several sites have been the target of protests by environmental activists. However, France’s primary nuclear operator, EDF (Électricité de France), has committed itself to prolonging operations even at its oldest facility, Fessenheim.
"We will prolong the operational life of existing nuclear plants by 40 years. By 2020 there will be approximately 110,000 new recruits in the sector. France still has the assets necessary to be at the head of the global nuclear sector," said Valérie Levkov, Vice President of nuclear engineering development at EDF.
Meanwhile, according to Reuters, France is trying to decide whether to allow EDF to raise its prices when selling to competitors. According to French law, EDF must sell one-fourth of its nuclear energy to competitors. The French government has so far delayed these plans.