EDF grid says EPR cable link may miss reactor start-up date

Tuesday 9 March 2010

By Tara Patel

March 9 (Bloomberg) — High-voltage cables to connect Electricite de France SA’s showcase EPR reactor at Flamanville in Normandy to the country’s power grid may not be complete before a planned start-up in 2012, the grid operator said.

“The Flamanville power line is necessary for industrial operation, it’s not necessary for all the tests and preliminary work that will happen in 2013,” Dominique Maillard, 59, chief executive officer of EDF grid operator Reseau du Transport d’Electricite, said in an interview today. “We are aiming to finish the link at the end of 2012 or start of 2013. We have no worries.”

EDF, Europe’s biggest power operator, plans to start the 4- billion-euro ($5.4 billion) EPR in 2012 and begin commercial power sales the following year. Keeping to the schedule and budget is seen as a test of the utility’s ability to export the technology to countries including China, Italy, the U.K. and U.S. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon told a nuclear conference in Paris today the reactor will supply power in 2013.

RTE has struggled for the past two years to gain building permits for a new 400,000-volt power line over 163 kilometers through the Normandy countryside that will link the reactor to the grid, allowing power sales. Local opposition groups and mayors have mounted court cases against the plan, citing health and environmental concerns.

The next step is for the government to issue a decree in favor of the 300-million-euro project, a move Maillard said today could spark a new round of court cases.

More Appeals

The decree “could bring more appeals,” he said, adding that these won’t necessarily bring construction to a halt.

To speed up the building process, RTE plans to use helicopters to transport materials, including pieces of pylons that will be as high as 65 meters, on which cables will be strung. The infrastructure will sit mostly on farmland.

“This will allow us to gain a considerable amount of time compared to doing the same things by road,” said Maillard.

Separately, RTE said today a high-voltage cable link between France and Spain over the Pyrenees mountains could be completed in 2014 and cost about 700 million euros. Unlike the Normandy project, local opposition was so strong that authorities agreed that a stretch of this connection will be buried underground, raising costs.

Maillard had said a year ago the 70-kilometer link, which has been discussed by France and Spain for about a quarter century, could be ready in 2012 and cost about 500 million euros. If it were built above ground, the project would cost “less than 100 million euros,” he said today at a press conference.

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