NS Energy Business profiles the top five nuclear power plants in France based on their installed capacity

Gravelines NPP – 5.4GW

Located at Gravelines in Northern France, the Gravelines nuclear power plant comprises six pressurised water reactors (PWR) units of 910MW each. The facility is owned and operated by French electric utility company Electricite De France (EDF).

The first two PWR units of the power plant were commissioned in 1980, while the remaining four reactors were commissioned between 1981 and 1985.

The power plant hit a major milestone in August 2010 by reaching 1,000 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of cumulative electricity production.

In November 2012, an IAEA-led international team of nuclear safety experts concluded an Operational Safety Review, which focused on aspects essential to the safe operation of the power plant. The review focused on the areas of management, organization and administration; training and qualification; operations; maintenance; technical support; operating experience; and radiation protection, among others.

The team proposed improvements to operational safety at Gravelines NPP, including measures to prevent foreign objects from entering plant systems.

Image: Powerlines and 6 blocks of the Graveline nuclear power plant on the French coast between Calais and Dunkirk. Photo courtesy of Ralf Bächle/Wikipedia.org

Paluel NPP – 5.3GW

The Paluel nuclear power plant, located 40km away from Dieppe, France, is owned and operated by EDF. Spread across 160ha on the waterfront of the English Channel, the power plant uses water from the Channel for cooling.

The nuclear power plant comprises four PWRs of 1,330MW each, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Construction of the nuclear power station began in 1977 with the first two units connected to the grid in 1984. The third and fourth units commenced operations in 1985.

In April 2016, EDF extended the outage period for unit two of the Paluel NPP after a 450t steam generator crashed onto the reactor floor during handling. Closed in May 2015 for its ten-yearly inspection, the 1,300MW Paluel 2 was due to be back online in May 2016.


Cattenom NPP – 5.2GW

The Cattenom nuclear power plant is located in Grand Est in the Cattenom commune, France, on the Moselle River between Thionville and Trier. Owned and operated by EDF, the power plant comprises four PWRs having a capacity of 1,300MW each.

Construction of the Cattenom nuclear power plant started was in 1979 and commercial operations began in April 1987. The fourth reactor of the plant was connected to the grid in 1991.

The Cattenom nuclear facility features four coolers that use water from the Moselle River for cooling.

In 2017, Rolls-Royce and AREVA NP installed and commissioned digital safety I&C technologies on to the first two reactors at the Cattenom power plant. The work was part of the world’s largest 14-year I&C modernisation programme, which involves supplying 880 new electronic cabinets and modifying 180 existing cabinets with safety systems for the 20 reactors of EDF’s 1,300MW portfolio in France.

In 2019, Eiffage Métal worked with EDF to remove and retube three condensers at the power plant. The operation was to be carried out while the condensers were stationary. It involved replacing 3×21,400 13m brass tubes, as well as the tubular plates in which they are inserted, with titanium tubes.

nuclear power plants in france
Image: Nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France. Photo courtesy of Stefan Kühn/Wikipedia.org.

Tricastin NPP – 3.6GW

Owned and operated by EDF, the Tricastin nuclear power plant is located in the Drôme department in south-eastern France. The facility has four PWRs, each with a capacity of 900MW, that were supplied by Framatome.

The plant generates an annual output of approximately 25TWh to meet the electricity consumption needs of roughly 3.5 million people.

Construction of units one and two of the Tricastin power plant, located near the Donzère-Mondragon Dam, began in 1974 and both the units were commissioned in December 1980. The third and fourth units, which broke ground in 1975, were commissioned in 1981.

The cooling source of the nuclear plant is the nearby Donzère-Mondragon canal for which French regulator Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), in July 2019, ordered EDF to strengthen the dikes by the end of 2022 at the earliest, Reuters reported.

All the four units of the Tricastin nuclear power plant were asked to be shut down from September to December 2017 by ASN as EDF worked on strengthening the dikes of the cooling canal to ensure that they do not collapse during an earthquake.

Cruas NPP – 3.6GW

The Cruas nuclear power station, which is also operated by EDF, is located in the Ardèche department in south-eastern France. With four PWRs in place, the Cruas nuclear power plant is capable of meeting nearly 40% of the annual power consumption in the Rhône-Alpes region.

Each of the reactors of the NPP, which were supplied by Framatome, has a capacity of 900MW. Located near Montélimar and 35km north of the Tricastin nuclear power plant, the Cruas nuclear facility was built on the right bank of the Rhône River. Cooling for the nuclear power plant is provided by the same river.

Construction of the facility was commenced in 1978, with all four reactors were commissioned between 1984 and 1985. According to EDF, the Cruas nuclear power station generated more than 23 billion kWh in 2017.

A level 2 incident on the International Nuclear Event Scale registered at the Cruas nuclear facility by ASN in late-2009. The incident occurred when the fourth reactor of the nuclear power plant had to be shut down as the intake of the water from the Rhône River was blocked due to vegetation.