Enel's Flamanville disappointment

23 February 2007

Electricité de France (EdF) has said it will take all the output from the forthcoming Flamanville 3 reactor, going back on an understanding to supply 12.5% of the power to Italy's largest utility, Enel.

In May 2005 chiefs from EdF and Enel met in Rome to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to the effect that Enel would participate in the Flamanville 3 project and take 200 MWe of the unit's 1600 MWe output. Furthermore, Enel would participate in the design, construction and operation of the unit, and have the opportunity to exercise the same involvement in the next six such reactors built in France. At the time, Enel CEO Fulvio Conti said: "This agreement... will enable us to recover our skills in nuclear energy with a project that puts us at the cutting edge of technology."

However, EdF CEO Pierre Gadonneix recently said that EdF would take Flamanville 3's entire output and that the project represents an opportunity for France and EdF to renew its skills for export to other countries.

It is unclear how EdF's decision concerning Enel's involvement at Flamanville would affect other matters covered by the MoU.

Enel is interested in nuclear in order to secure steady supply to Italian customers, who must import about 10% of their electricity, and to maintain a minimum capability in nuclear while Italy has anti-nuclear legislation introduced after the Chernobyl disaster.

Since a 2004 change in law that allowed Italian companies to invest in nuclear power abroad, Enel has shown interest in several European projects. It owns 66% of Slovenske Electrarne with five reactors in Slovakia, four of which come under the deal with Enel, and the company is known to be interested in nuclear projects at Cernavoda in Romania and Belene in Bulgaria.

Enel was known to have made certain investments to prepare for involvement at Flamanville, including the specific recruitment of staff, now reassigned to other roles.

Flamanville 3 will be the second Evolutionary Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) to be built, after Olkiluoto 3 in Finland. Site preparation work is underway for construction and major components for the unit are currently being ordered. Late January saw the award of the most significant engineering contract - the nuclear steam supply system - from Areva NP. Alstom will supply the enormous 1600 MWe steam turbine. The reactor unit and its standardised design represent the pilot project for the eventual replacement of France's current fleet of reactors, that provide over 75% of the country's electricity. EPRs are also proposed in the USA, rumoured for China and under consideration for deployment in several other countries.

Further information

Electricité de France

WNN: Areva wins order for Flamanville