French nuclear plant reaches landmark

02 November 2010

The six-unit Gravelines nuclear power plant near Dunkerque in northern France has become the first nuclear plant in the world to deliver 1000 billion kilowatt-hours (one petawatt-hour) of electricity. 


Electricité de France (EdF) announced that on the 27 August 2010 the Gravelines nuclear power plant had delivered its 1000 billionth kWh (one PWh) of electricity. It is the first nuclear power site to generate this historic figure, which is equal to twice the annual consumption of the whole of France.


Gravelines (EdF)
The six-unit Gravelines plant (Image: EdF)


Gravelines is neither the biggest nuclear power plant in the world, nor the oldest. It attributes its success in reaching the milestone figure to a combination of skilled staff, successful operation and maintenance management, and standardised design. Significantly, no significant safety incident has ever taken place at Gravelines, which has meanwhile lowered worker radiation doses by a factor of two in the past decade.


All six units of the Gravelines plant were commissioned between 1980 and 1984. Over its 30 years of operation it has contributed to the economy some €4 billion ($6 billion) in workers' wages and €3.6 billion ($5 billion) in taxes. It has also spent about €4 billion ($6 billion) in maintenance and provided an average yearly amount of €120 million ($168 million) for contracts, mainly to local subcontractors.


Future generation 


Unit 1 will undergo a mandatory outage next year. This is a regulatory requirement for all French reactors that takes place every ten years, and the other units will soon follow suit. Overall, about €2.9 billion ($4.1 billion) is expected to be spent on maintenance for the six units over this time.


Each of Gravelines' six reactors is expected to operate for a total of 60 years, so the plant could potentially produce another petawatt-hour before it reaches the end of its operating life.


To place one PWh in context with other sources, it is roughly equal to the amount of electricity obtained from burning either 350 million tonnes of coal, 220 million tonnes of oil or 60 billion cubic metres of gas.

The nuclear reactors at Gravelines have saved 1000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide that would have been emitted to the atmosphere had coal been burnt instead. The high-level waste from the plant – which has been subjected to reprocessing – fills a volume about one-third that of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News