PARIS, Nov 15 (Reuters) - EDF will not be able to restart seven nuclear reactors undergoing safety checks for at least another 45 days, France’s nuclear watchdog ASN said on Tuesday, suggesting a potential setback in EDF’s plans to restart the reactors by the year-end.
EDF has been told to conduct checks on 12 reactors at the request of ASN, leading to lower than usual power capacity in France in the run-up to winter and triggering a jump in European prices to multi-year highs.
ASN has yet to receive additional information it has requested from EDF regarding seven reactors, a spokeswoman told Reuters, confirming an earlier report by BFM Business radio.
The safety regulator needs a month to take a decision on a reactor restart once it has all necessary information, after which EDF would require about another two weeks to bring the reactors back online, she said.
This suggests the seven reactors would be available at the very end of December at the earliest and may not be online until January.
An EDF spokesman said its timetable for restarting the reactors was unchanged.
French power prices for December delivery had risen 6.7 percent by 0950 GMT, in contrast to a fall in spot prices.
The utility’s chief executive said earlier this month that EDF was doing its best to have more nuclear reactors up and running but was waiting for the ASN’s green light to restart some of them.
The ongoing reactor outages also led EDF this month to reduce its nuclear power output forecast for the second time this year and to trim its 2016 core earnings target.
The ASN had ordered a review of the strength of crucial steel components after the discovery of manufacturing irregularities.
France depends on nuclear power for about 75 percent of its power needs and its nuclear fleet usually allows it to be a net electricity exporter in Europe.
French grid operator RTE, meanwhile, warned last week it could be forced to impose some short power blackouts in parts of the country this winter in response to reactor outages.
Reactors are also routinely closed for maintenance. In all, as of Tuesday, 18 of EDF’s 58 reactors were not producing, leaving nearly 30 percent of France’s nuclear power capacity offline, data compiled by Reuters shows.
Reporting by Benjamin Mallet, writing by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Andrew Callus and Louise Heavens