On January 11, 2023, the Orano group committed itself to constructing a new building for its engineering activities (Orano Projets) in Cherbourg (Normandie region). As a major player in nuclear energy, its aim is to offer open, digitalized and eco-friendly spaces. This new building will replace the one in Equeurdreville (Normandie) and will have a higher capacity, accommodating 500 employees and subcontractors.
The group’s ultimate goal is to ensure good waste management (storage, reconditioning), guarantee the sustainability of the nuclear industry (the third largest industrial sector in France after the aerospace and automotive industries) and avoid the saturation of warehouse areas at its sites by 2030, as requested by the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN).
These objectives have been shaped by the fifth radioactive material and waste management plan (PNGMDR) published by the French government in December 2022. France aims to create new sectors by 2026 to manage medium or high-activity waste (high levels of radioactivity) and to optimize existing channels specializing in managing low-activity waste (low levels of radioactivity).
By 2030, France will be responsible for 70% of Europe’s potential nuclear production. In 2022, nearly half of Europe’s functioning nuclear reactors were located in France (56 out of 106). In 2021, they accounted for 69% of France’s electricity generated.
As part of the “France 2030” plan, €1 billion has been allocated to the production of innovative, clean and small reactors: the Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). Some €50 billion will also be invested from 2028 in order to build six new reactors, and the possibility of building eight additional reactors by 2050.
Safety being central, French nuclear energy is governed by EDF’s “Grand Carénage” program (2014-2025), which invests €49.4 billion in reactor maintenance and technical development. The aim is to extend the life of French nuclear reactors beyond 40 years (their average being currently 34 years).
With four reactors with a power output of 1,450 MW, 20 reactors of 1,300 MW and 32 reactors of 900 MW, France is ranked second for nuclear energy generation after the United States and is the leading European exporter. The Act passed by the Senate on January 24, 2023 aims to increase this production by allowing for the acceleration of procedures related to the construction of new nuclear installations while ensuring nuclear safety.
France stands out from the rest of Europe due to its nuclear specificities. Firstly, France’s reactors can quickly adapt to fluctuations in energy demand, thanks to the flexibility of their system. And secondly, France’s energy mix allows it to have one of the lowest levels of CO2 emitted per capita in the European Union: 6.8 tonnes of CO2 per capita, compared with 10.1 for Germany and an average of 8.4 for the European Union.
For further information on France’s green transition, click here.