Where Habeck is right – and where not

Beconomy minister Robert Habeck (Greens) has explicitly explained the extension of the service life of two German nuclear power plants with the supply situation in France. “More than half of the nuclear power plants there are not connected to the grid, so there is a lack of electricity, which Germany compensates for in part with electricity from gas-fired power plants,” he said on Tuesday evening.

This statement is not entirely correct, but it is broadly correct. In fact, of the 56 French nuclear reactors on Tuesday, 27 were producing no electricity and one was producing electricity at reduced capacity. The main reasons are routine maintenance work, which was partly delayed due to the corona pandemic, as well as repair and control work on twelve systems due to corrosion or suspected corrosion. The latter refers to small cracks in the pipes of the safety injection system that were found during a ten-year inspection.

Heat, drought and cooling problems

Nevertheless, Habeck’s statements are surprising. Referring to the stress test of the French transmission system operator, he explained that the data in the neighboring country “have continued to fall in recent weeks”. That is only partly true. First, the heat and drought-related cooling problem at some French nuclear power plants, a third difficulty along with maintenance and repair work, has subsided since the end of the summer.

Secondly, the analysis by the French network operator RTE was published on September 13th, i.e. almost two weeks ago, and it has calmed the fears of many observers rather than exacerbated them further. “In no case is there a risk of a ‘blackout’ in France, that is, a complete loss of control over the electricity system,” RTE wrote in this analysis, predicting that winter power cuts would be offset by a 1 to 5 percent reduction in consumption in the central and up to 15 percent could be avoided in the most extreme scenario. Extreme situations in which all unfavorable coincidences such as extreme cold would accumulate are therefore “not the most likely”.

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