There is great concern about an energy shortage in Europe. Recently, attention has increasingly focused on France. Some German politicians see the nuclear country slipping into an electricity crisis despite numerous reactors. What is the truth of such fears?

The German debate about the continued operation of the last nuclear power plants after the planned nuclear phase-out is heating up in view of the war in Ukraine and concerns about energy shortages. Again and again, the focus falls on France.

FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr sees the neighboring country with one foot in an electricity crisis, Bundestag Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt from the Greens refers to reactor failures due to cooling problems. So what about nuclear power France and its energy supply?

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More than half of France’s nuclear reactors are currently not running. As a spokeswoman for the energy company EDF told the German Press Agency, only 27 of the 56 reactors are currently available.

This is due to extensive planned and temporary maintenance work, some of which had to be postponed due to the corona pandemic. In addition, kilns are also out of service because investigations into the formation of cracks are being carried out there after the group had identified some defects at the beginning of the year.

However, the group spokeswoman did not report any cooling problems. The power plants pump water for cooling and later eject it again. Depending on the work, the water that is returned to nature must not exceed a certain temperature.

However, due to the heat wave in parts of France, there have recently been isolated, temporary exemptions that allow for a slightly higher water temperature. Energy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher told the broadcaster LCI on Wednesday that 18 reactors should be ramped up again in the coming weeks.

According to EDF, it is normal that some reactors temporarily do not produce electricity. However, the group lowered its forecast at the beginning of the year in view of the additional temporary closures and has since been expecting 295 to 315 terawatt hours of electricity to be produced instead of 300 to 330.

The idle operation of some reactors is already making itself felt. According to a publication by the French Ministry of Energy, 7.5 percent less nuclear power was produced in the first trimester of this year – because so few reactors were available. According to the ministry, electricity imports to France have also become “more significant”.

France and Germany both import electricity from each other. According to data from the transmission system operators, Germany imported around 1.7 terawatt hours of electricity from France between April and June.

This corresponds to about 1.5 percent of the electricity consumption in these months. Compared to the second quarter of 2021, net exports to France, i.e. the amount exported minus imports, were more than five times higher this year, according to a publication by the Federal Network Agency.

According to the data, in June Germany sold more electricity to France than it took from the neighboring country. In the past two years, according to the data, it was the other way around in June. At that time, France had exported more electricity to Germany than Germany to France. For the winter months, it is noticeable that France recently imported more electricity from Germany than in the previous year.

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According to the Ministry of Energy, the higher electricity imports to France still lagged behind the imports of gas and oil. The latest data available from the ministry in May did not show that significantly more energy had been brought into the country than usual.

Pannier-Runacher also pointed out that France was ahead of schedule when it came to filling the gas storage facilities. They are now 75 percent full. They should be full by November.