UPDATE 1-EDF says more reactors to restart by January, meet winter demand

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PARIS, Oct 11 (Reuters) - French state-controlled utility EDF will have enough margin to meet power demand during peak consumption periods this winter, and expects more reactors to resume production by January following scheduled maintenance outages, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

“Based on our current analysis as of today, we have enough margin of manoeuvre to meet demand this winter, even if we were to have extended outages at some plants,” the spokesman said.

He added that the start date for EDF’s third-generation EPR pressurized water reactor in Flamanville was unchanged at end-2018, denying a media report that it could be delayed.

French spot and forward electricity prices have hit new highs over the past two weeks following reports that France could face tight supplies after nuclear safety authority ASN asked EDF to carry out more tests on some reactors.

The first-quarter 2017 electricity contract fell 3.8 euros or nearly 6 percent to 60 euros per megawatt hour (MWh) by 1515 GMT during a volatile day of trading, after trading as high as 64.50 euros earlier.

French nuclear safety watchdog ASN has asked EDF to test 12 reactors which could contain zones with high carbon concentration in their steam generator channel heads, which it said could weaken their resilience.

EDF has said it has scheduled the tests and has taken into account the outage impact on its power output when it gave a revised power production target for 2016 and 2017 in September.

A spokeswoman for ASN told Reuters on Tuesday that the regulator was working with EDF and its analysis were ongoing and it would communicate in the coming weeks.

France depends on nuclear power for over 75 percent of its electricity needs. Currently, 22 out of 58 French nuclear reactors are completely out for planned or statutory maintenance outages for various periods ranging from a couple of days to several months. Another one is producing at reduced capacity.

These outages represent about 36 percent of nuclear capacity or 22,700 MW out of France’s 63,260 MW installed nuclear generation capacity.

About 17 of those reactors are expected to resume production by the end of the year according to Reuters tabulation.

French grid operator RTE, is expected to publish its French winter electricity outlook next month.

According to RTE, France’s record peak winter electricity consumption was recorded on the evening of February 8, 2012 with demand at 102,098 MW. Record demand this year was registered at 88,571 MW on Jan. 18.

Although a net power exporter in western Europe on an annual basis, France also imports power from neighbouring countries during periods of peak demand. (Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Geert De Clercq)