The Fessenheim nuclear power plant was commissioned in 1977. - M.ASTAR / SIPA

  • The Fessenheim nuclear power plant is near the end. On Saturday, its first reactor will be shut down, before the second in June. Then its fuel will be evacuated, before a dismantling which, according to EDF forecasts, should last twenty years. Until 2040.
  • What does the end of the oldest nuclear power plant in France mean in terms of energy production, impact on the environment, jobs and economic consequences on the territory?
  • What projects are being discussed for the post-central phase? We will summarize the challenges and perspectives for you.

Saturday will be the beginning of the end. The reactor 1 of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant will be shut down at 2:30 a.m. Then, on June 30, n ° 2 on June 30 will also cease to function. Preparations for dismantling can then begin, until the scheduled demolition of the site, today, until 2040.

What will change in the closure of the oldest nuclear power plant in France, commissioned in 1977? Answers in several points.

Lower energy production… for foreign countries

It's mathematical. In 2019, 12.3 terrawatt hours (TWh) had been produced in Fessenheim, they will no longer be. "This corresponds to about 90% of annual consumption in Alsace and 2% of French electricity production," says one side of EDF, the owner of the site, who wants to be reassuring.

No, the territory will suddenly not run out of electricity. The proof, France exported 84 TWh last year, for an import of 28.3 TWh according to the balance sheet of RTE (Electricity transmission network), which manages the distribution. Or a positive trade balance of 55.7 TWh. "EDF exports electricity 350 days a year out of 365 and will continue to do so for neighboring countries", summarizes the company.

"It eliminates the risk" but ... not pollution?

What would have happened in the event of a break in the dyke of the Grand Canal of Alsace, located eight meters above the power plant? What about an earthquake? Supporters of the Fessenheim closure have long raised these questions. A study conducted by EDF in 2016 concluded that a flood was impossible.

Regardless, with the scheduled shutdown of the two reactors, "these risks will disappear," appreciates Yannick Rousselet, the head of nuclear issues at Greenpeace. "But behind, it will not be finished," he quickly nuances, referring in particular to the "dangers" that the unloading of fuel represents in the deactivation pools. "These basins are located in" BK buildings "and in Fessenheim, it looks like simple agricultural sheds absolutely not protected against external aggressions. "

The dismantling operations also present risks to nature, according to the expert. "Yes, the large reactivity potential will have disappeared once the fuel has been evacuated to the La Hague reprocessing plant, but there will be releases into the environment during rinsing and cutting", he explains, while also mentioning tritium which “will leave traces on the ground. "

Yannick Rousselet nevertheless welcomes the end of the "radioactive gases and liquid discharges" that the power station permanently generated "in a completely legal manner". “It is certain that this stop will do good to the environment even if it will take time for the place to be made public space. "

A position not shared by Maxence Cordiez, engineer at the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission (CEA) in La Revue Générale Nucléaire. "A nuclear power station shut down and which could have continued to operate will see its production replaced by that of coal and gas power stations somewhere in Europe", he writes estimating "the additional annual emission linked to the shutdown of the reactors of Fessenheim between 6 and 10 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. »Expert debate…

"No job loss", really?

Elisabeth Borne assured him on Wednesday. "There will be no job loss" related to the closure of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant, according to the Minister for Ecological Transition. "We are entering the hard way but we have made sure with EDF that all employees will find a job," she said on RMC, adding that there is "also special support for subcontractors." . "

The first #Fessenheim reactor will be shutdown on Saturday. It was a commitment from @ EmmanuelMacron. It is a historic moment for our energy policy, consistent with our objectives:

On the part of #nuclear
From #renouvelable
Centrales #charbon power plants

- Elisabeth BORNE (@Elisabeth_Borne) February 19, 2020

On the spot, the reality seems more contrasted. “Yes, no EDF employee will be dismissed, but there are people worried. Many do not know where they are going to go and what they are going to do, ”says CFE-CGC union delegate Anne Laszlo. “For example, of the 170 who are due to leave in 2020, almost a third is still unclear. "

In 2025, there will only be 60 EDF employees in Fessenheim, compared to 645 today, to which should be added around 300 service providers. What about these? "There will be a proposal that will be sent to each of our employees so that they can be redeployed elsewhere," said a spokesperson for Orano, who employs 45 people on the Alsatian site, at 20 Minutes . “Then they are free to accept or refuse, everything will be done on a voluntary basis. It is therefore not forbidden to think that some will end up on the side of the road.

Hard tomorrow for Fessenheim and its surroundings?

The banners against the closure of the power station have now disappeared from the streets of Fessenheim. As if the inhabitants of the Haut-Rhin commune had resigned themselves to this end announced by François Hollande in 2011 and several times postponed.

According to figures from INSEE, the income of 5,000 people is linked, directly or indirectly, to the activity of the plant. What will they become? The mayor of Fessenheim has his opinion. "I estimate that about 200 people will leave, multiplied by 2.5 (roughly the family composition), that makes between 400 and 500 people who can leave the town, out of 2400 inhabitants", he explained at France Culture.

For those who would like to stay in the area, they could turn to the river port of Colmar-Neuf-Brisach, whose development is hoped for. An economic zone, EcoRhéna, could also see the light next year and attract French and German companies. Finally, the creation of a technocentre for the reprocessing of metallic components from deconstructed power plants is also mentioned. But after the planned dismantling until 2040 and if the policies agree by then. The Minister for the Ecological Transition, Élisabeth Borne, thus expressed doubts last month about this EDF project.

In the meantime, the State released in 2018 an envelope of an additional 30 million euros over ten years for Fessenheim and its intermunicipality, in order to compensate for the tax losses estimated at 6.5 million euros per year. "We know full well that the next fifteen years will be difficult," concludes Gérard Hug, the president of the Pays Rhin-Brisach community of municipalities.


Fessenheim: The decree confirming the shutdown of the reactors published in the "Official Journal"


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