Fessenheim (France) (AFP)

The shutdown of the first of the two reactors of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant, on the night of Friday to Saturday, is a victory for the anti-nuclear but a heresy for the employees and the inhabitants of the small commune of Haut-Rhin, which does do not understand this decision.

Opposed to the closure of this first reactor, before the shutdown of the second on June 30, some employees threatened to disobey and not to apply the procedures allowing its shutdown and the decoupling of the national electricity network.

But everything ended up going smoothly.

"The reactor was disconnected around 02:00 in the morning 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".

This process was similar to a maintenance shutdown, except that this time the reactor will not be restarted, to the chagrin of employees and residents of the region, very attached to the plant, which generated almost 2,000 direct, indirect and induced.

Accompanied by local elected officials, it will be Saturday morning at the foot of the power station to claim that the State has not abandoned this watered territory for 40 years by the taxes paid by EDF. They fear that hundreds of families with comfortable incomes will leave it.

- "Climate vandalism" -

"Some environmental lobbyists have been able to make Fessenheim their target", launched for his part the LR deputy of the Haut-Rhin Raphaël Schellenberger, judging the decision to close the 2 sections of Fessenheim "just unbelievable".

The elected officials will be followed in the afternoon by pro-nuclear associations which want to "protest against this act of climatic and environmental vandalism".

For their part, the anti-nuclear companies are satisfied with this first step towards the closure of the plant that they have been hoping for for years.

"The shutdown of this dying plant is a reason for cross-border celebration, but not a reason for triumph", the radioactive fuel remaining present for several years on site, commented the German environmental association Bund, which has opposed for years at this plant.

The reactor shutdown operation brought to an end years of turmoil, debate and postponement over the fate of the Alsatian power plant, which went into service in 1977.

Built on the border between France and Germany, not far from Switzerland, the plant has become over the years the symbol of all the dangers of the atom for the anti-nuclear weapons of the three countries, which have not stopped to point out, in addition to aging which would complicate the replacement of certain parts, a situation below the Grand Canal of Alsace and in a region with proven seismicity. Critics who intensified after the Fukushima disaster in March 2011 in Japan.

- "No job loss" -

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.

The Minister for Ecological Transition Elisabeth Borne, who came to meet the elected officials in Colmar on Friday, before briefly going to Fessenheim to greet some traders, promised that there would be "no loss of employment".

It confirmed the will of the State to create in Fessenheim "a center of excellence for nuclear dismantling, based on a + Technocentre + for the recycling of metallic materials".

Twelve additional reactors, out of the 58 in France, must be shut down by 2035, without however leading to complete shutdowns of power plants like in Fessenheim.

© 2020 AFP