France says Penly reactor on course despite delays

PARIS Tue Oct 4, 2011 12:22pm EDT

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PARIS Oct 4 (Reuters) - The project to build France's 60th nuclear reactor has not been put on ice, the energy ministry said on Tuesday after state-owned utility EDF delayed public consultations necessary to give the go-ahead for construction.

"The Penly project is not suspended," a spokeswoman at the energy ministry said after newspaper Le Monde reported that EDF had decided against launching public consultations six months before presidential elections and after the Fukushima disaster in Japan rekindled public debate on France's nuclear dependence.

EDF had informed the energy ministry that its public consultation survey was not ready, the energy ministry spokeswoman said, adding consultations would only be carried out when the survey is submitted to the ASN nuclear watchdog.

EDF, whose 58 nuclear reactors produce enough to meet 80 percent of France's electricity needs, confirmed a delay of "a few months" explained by the fact that EDF had been busy carrying safety tests in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Penly's next-generation reactor, which would be France's second new-generation reactor after the one being built in Flamanville, was originally due for construction from 2012 and set to start production from 2017.

The Fukushima catastrophe has fuelled speculation France will renounce its plans to build another nuclear reactor but the government has repeatedly denied the project has been frozen. (Reporting By Marie Maitre and Benjamin Mallet; editing by James Jukwey)

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