PARIS, France: French state-owned energy giant EDF on Saturday began shutting down the country’s oldest nuclear power plant after 43 years in operation. Environmentalists and anti-nuclear activists have long pushed the authorities to close down the plant but not everyone agrees and some locals protested that its closure is a threat to jobs and the local economy. EDF said it had disconnected one of two reactors at Fessenheim, along the Rhine near France’s eastern border with Germany and Switzerland, at 2:00 am (0100 GMT) in the first stage of the complete closure of the plant.
The second reactor is to be taken off line on June 30 but it will be several months before the two have cooled enough and the used fuel can start to be removed. The removal of the fuel is expected to be completed by the summer of 2023 but the plant will only be fully decommissioned by 2040 at the earliest. Shutting down Fessenheim became a key goal of anti-nuclear campaigners after the catastrophic meltdown at Fukushima in Japan in 2011. Experts have noted that construction and safety standards at Fessenheim, brought online in 1977, fall far short of those at Fukushima, with some warning that seismic and flooding risks in the Alsace region had been underestimated. Despite a pledge by then president Francois Hollande just months after Fukushima to close the plant, it was not until 2018 that his successor President Emmanuel Macron’s government gave the final green light.