The first of the two reactors at the Fessenheim nuclear power plant, the oldest in France, was disconnected at around 2 a.m. on Saturday, not without emotion, and despite the threat of certain employees to oppose the procedure. The second reactor is to be shut down on June 30.

The first of the two reactors at the Fessenheim nuclear power plant was disconnected from the national electricity grid without any problem on Saturday at 2 a.m., but not without bitterness for the employees and the inhabitants of the small commune of Haut-Rhin. "The reactor was disconnected at around 2 am and we must salute the remarkable work of the teams, it was a very emotional moment in the control room", we said on the side of EDF. "The procedure went without any problem".

Opposed to the closure of this first reactor, before the shutdown of the second on June 30, employees threatened to disobey and not to apply the procedures allowing the decoupling of the reactor. But everything went smoothly for this process, which looked like a maintenance shutdown. Except that this time the reactor will not be restarted, to the chagrin of the employees.

"Something very difficult to live with"

"It is starting to have trouble breathing. It is dying slowly," the CGT section of the plant tweeted around 9 p.m. Friday, with a photo of a table showing the real-time production of the two reactors. The first one slowing down to 422 megawatts, half an hour after the start of the load drop, the second still operating at full capacity, at 913 megawatts. Each of the two pressurized water reactors with a theoretical power of 900 megawatts could supply electricity to 400,000 homes.

When it reached 8% of its theoretical power, reactor n ° 1 was disconnected from the national electricity network. "For all shift personnel, that night of shutdown of reactor no. 1, making the gestures to decouple it definitively will be something very difficult to live with," explained a union member beforehand. "There is a very heavy atmosphere at the plant, the employees are on edge," also noted the mayor of Fessenheim, Claude Brender on Friday. They experience "a feeling of revolt (...) the impression of a mess".

>> READ ALSO - How will the dismantling of the Fessenheim plant take place?

Twenty years' dismantling

The reactor shutdown operation brought to an end years of turmoil, debate and reports on the fate of the Alsatian power plant, built in the 1970s very close to the border with Germany. The evacuation of the fuel from the plant will, according to the planned schedule, be completed in 2023. Then must continue the phase of preparation for decommissioning, a process unprecedented in France on the scale of an entire plant which should start on the horizon. 2025 and continue at least until 2040.