France’s oldest nuclear plant shuts down after 43 years

epa08516297 (FILE) - A file photo dated 15 March 2011 of the nuclear power plant in Fessenheim, France (reissued 29 June 2020). Reports on 29 June 2020 state operations to switch off France's oldest nuclear plant in Fessenheim have started, according to French energy company EDF that operates the plant. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE KARABA

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France has decommissioned the second and last reactor of the nuclear power station plant at Fessenheim, in the east of the country, three years after its estimated 40 year life span.

EDF, the country’s power company said that the second reactor was shut down four months after the first, and explained that the site’s dismantlement will take years. This decision was welcomed by a number of anti-nuclear campaigners not only in the country but also in neighbouring Switzerland and Germany, who for years hard warned of risks, as exposed by the catastrophic meltdown at Fukushima, Japan in 2011.

France24 explained that after its disconnection from the power grid Monday, it will be months before Fessenheim’s reactors have cooled enough for the spent fuel to be removed. Such process is estimated to take a couple of years, but the plant is not expected to be fully dismantled before at least 2040.

‘Inhuman’

While this closure was celebrated by environmental campaigners, this closure might spell distress for families in this little village in Alsace, home to just 2,500 people. The site provided employment to more than a thousand employees, either directly or through service providers. “What pain, it is inhuman what is happening,” the CGT labour union tweeted.

The government has said workers will be transferred to other EDF sites. But many would have to leave their families behind.

There is no legal limit on the life span of French nuclear power stations, but EDF had envisaged a 40-year ceiling for all second-generation reactors, which use pressurised water technology.

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