Macron facing £90bn nightmare as ‘desperate’ France forced to nationalise EDF over flaws

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France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced the move yesterday, noting increasing government ownership from 84 percent to 100 would give allow them to restructure the debt-laden energy company, while dealing with a major energy crisis. EDF, which owns nuclear power plants in both France and the UK, is one of Europe’s biggest utilities and is a critical aspect of the country’s energy strategy, as France relies on nuclear power for 70 percent of its electricity.

However, in recent years the company has been faced with immense debt, nuclear reactor flaws and cost overruns on nuclear plants in France and Britain that reach in the billions of euros.

In a speech, Ms Borne said: “I confirm to you today that the state intends to control 100 percent of EDF’s capital.

“We need to ensure our sovereignty in the face of the war (in Ukraine) and the looming colossal challenges.”

However, Dr Paul Dorfman, an associate Fellow at SPRU University of Sussex, dismissed the idea that this move was because of anything except EDF’s debt problems and nuclear reactor flaws.

In a tweet, he described the plan as a “desperate measure by Macron”.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said: “The real reasons behind French Govt. nationalisation of French nuclear corporation EDF: Half of EDF’s French nuclear reactors are offline.

“EDF is already hugely indebted and faces a massive bill of up to 100billion euros (£85billion) to keep its ageing nuclear fleet going, and EDF’s flagship EPR reactor is over-cost and over-time everywhere it’s built.”

Aside from its debts, EDF has faced issues with ageing reactors, after experts warned Mr Macron of significant corrosion safety problems in EDF nuclear power plants in France as cracks were detected in some nuclear reactors.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Bernard Laponche, the co-author of a recent study on EDF’s reactors warned that in many of these plants, cracks in cooling systems could cause devastating accidents.

He said: “If the defects are detected in or near the welds, or near the junction between these and the primary cooling circuit cause a breach in the cooling system with an important loss of water, this can lead to the partial or total melting of the fuel assemblies in the reactor core.

“That means the possibility of a Three Mile Island or a Fukushima-type accident.”

As a result of these corrosion problems, four 1500 MW, seven 1300 MW and one 900 MW reactors are shut down.

According to Dr Dorfman, it will cost France 100billion euros (£85billion) to repair the ageing reactors.

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Combined with the other €5billion (£4.3billion) it will cost the French government nearly £90billion to get EDF out of the crisis.

EDF is currently responsible for building the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset.

The station was previously set to come online in 2026 but has since been delayed due to Covid-19.

Following the delay, EDF announced that the new nuclear power station will operate a year later than planned and cost an additional £3billion.

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