The nuclear industry is now France’s third-largest industrial sector after automobiles and aerospace. EDF has full responsibility for the fleet of 19 power plants in operation, with safety overseen by the ASN, France’s nuclear safety authority. Thanks to its competitiveness and fuel supply security, nuclear energy is the main source of power generation in France and a guarantee of the country’s energy independence.
Nuclear energy, the linchpin of the French energy mix
To be able to supply clean, affordable energy to everyone, everywhere at all times, EDF uses the full range of energy sources, including nuclear, hydro, coal, oil, wind, sun and biomass.
Of these sources, only nuclear and hydro are used in continuous production. The two form the baseload capacity of the French electricity system, with the bulk of generation based on nuclear.
Nuclear accounts for a high share of the French energy mix as a result of a policy decision taken by the French government in the 1960s to diversify the country’s sources of supply in order to maintain its energy independence.
Over 85% of the electricity generated by EDF in France every year is nuclear
Strictly regulated nuclear power plants are overseen by the Autorité de sûreté nuclear (ASN – nuclear safety authority), an independent government agency. ASN carries out both scheduled and unscheduled inspections to ensure optimum safety of power plants by checking their technical compliance as well as their organisation and human resources: training, management, environmental protection, radiation protection of workers, and so on.
Operated for more than 30 years, the 19 nuclear power plants currently in operation in France comply with all ASN standards. EDF has exported its expertise and manages a fleet of 78 nuclear reactors around the globe, making it the world’s leading nuclear power producer and a respected expert in the industry.
Competitive energy with stable costs
France also owes its leadership in nuclear generation to its capacity. Currently 58 reactors with capacities ranging from 900 to 1,450 MW are in operation across all nuclear plants, with a combined installed capacity of 63.13 GW.
A 900 MW reactor generates 500,000 MWh per month on average – the equivalent consumption of 500,000 households.
Thanks to nuclear energy, the average price of a kilowatt-hour of electricity is 40% lower in France than in neighbouring European countries.
The uranium used to generate electricity accounts for 5% of the cost of producing 1 kilowatt-hour. By comparison, fuel accounts for 20–50% of the cost of generation in coal-fired plants and 50–80% of the cost in gas-fired plants.
With its lower exposure to price volatility and market pressure compared with fossil fuels, nuclear energy enables France to supply some of Europe’s most competitive and least oil-dependent electricity.