Twenty French nuclear reactors affected by strike, union says

Steam rises from cooling towers of the Electricite de France (EDF) nuclear power station in Belleville-sur-Loire
Steam rises from cooling towers of the Electricite de France (EDF) nuclear power plant in Belleville-sur-Loire, France October 12, 2021. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Strikes have affected almost a third of France's nuclear reactors, a power union official said, delaying maintenance at many of them just as nuclear power giant EDF is rushing to get enough of its fleet back online in time for the winter.

France's nuclear output was already expected to hit a 30-year low in 2022 due to a record number of reactor outages due to corrosion issues and planned maintenance, at a time when Europe is facing an energy crisis because of the Ukraine war.

Power supply has been further hit in recent weeks as the FNME-CGT union has been staging rolling strikes over wages at some nuclear power plants.

On Tuesday, FNME-CGT representative Virginie Neumayer told Reuters 20 reactors out of a total of 56 had been affected by the strikes. Of those, 17 reactors had their maintenance schedule delayed as a result.

Some 16.3% of the total workforce joined the national strike, EDF said.

An agreement between all the unions in the energy and gas industry sector was signed this morning for the first time since 2008, EDF said. Negotiations at the company level will now be held, with a first meeting due on Wednesday.

Earlier, power grid operator RTE warned that prolonged strikes delaying even further the restart of the reactors could have "heavy consequences" for electricity supply over the winter. read more

A spokesperson for EDF confirmed that the strikes had moved the restart dates of the Cattenom 1 reactor by 11 days from that announced last Friday to Nov. 12, the Cruas 2 by two weeks to Nov. 13, and the Tricastin 3 by three weeks to Nov. 14.

Also, the restart of the Bugey 4 was pushed back four days to Nov. 1, the Cruas 3 five days to Oct. 25, and the Dampierre 3 three days to Nov. 27.

Maintenance operations are continuing on the reactors that are currently shut down despite the strikes, an EDF spokesperson said on Monday.

The strike is part of a general strike on Tuesday that has affected train traffic, schools and other sectors.

Reporting by Forrest Crellin; Editing by Silvia Aloisi, Alexandra Hudson

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