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France yet to agree with EU over nuclear reform: official

PARIS (Reuters) - France and the European Union are yet to reach a firm agreement over Paris’s plans for a reform of its nuclear industry, an Elysee presidential palace official said on Monday, amid talks that will entail a reorganisation of power group EDF.

Electrical power pylons of high-tension electricity power lines are seen next to the EDF power plant in Bouchain, near Valenciennes, France, July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

The talks between France and the European Commission include the ARENH price mechanism under which competitors can get access to nuclear energy produced by EDF. Because EDF is a state-owned utility, the EU has a say on its reform on competition grounds.

The looming reform, which would see EDF’s nuclear business separated from others such as renewable energy, has already raised hackles among labour unions, fearful that a split will have consequences for jobs.

Speculation had mounted in recent weeks that a deal with the EU was nearing, and that Paris was ready to start putting some elements of the reform through parliament.

“There is not yet an agreement with the Commission on some of the key parametres,” an official with the Elysee presidential palace said, speaking ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to a nuclear equipment factory run by a EDF subsidiary Framatome on Tuesday.

The official said it was too soon to say when the new legislation on the nuclear sector could emerge.

“Talks (with Brussels) are advancing and are constructive,” the official added.

Reuters reported in October that Brussels had been pushing for a much stricter split of businesses at EDF than the one initially envisaged by Macron.

EDF unions have called for a second day of strikes over the reform - known as Project Hercules - on Dec. 10.

France is due to cut its reliance on nuclear energy from 75% to 50% by 2035, but must also decide by 2023 whether to commission next generation EPR reactors.

The government will be seeking more information from EDF by the middle of next year about the cost, timeframe and feasibility of new projects, the Elysee official said.

Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic; Writing by GV De Clercq and Sarah White; Editing by Toby Chopra and Mark Potter