France’s nuclear power output hit its highest levels in three years in the first quarter of 2024 as the country recovers from its 2022 output crisis.

Utilities produced 4.11 million kilowatt-hours of electricity from nuclear plants in the first three months of 2024, up 13.4% from the same period last year, according to data compiled by the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) and analysed by Reuters.

This is the highest output of nuclear energy since 2021, suggesting a successful recovery by France’s nuclear producers – namely state-owned EDF – after power stations were badly hit by repairs at the end of 2022 and beginning of 2023. Production plunged more than 22% in 2022 year-on-year, hitting the country’s lowest nuclear output levels in three decades.

Last year, EDF posted record net losses for 2022 after electrical output from its ageing French nuclear fleet saw serious decline amid necessary maintenance. Full-year results for 2023 were more optimistic, with the company returning to profit despite soaring costs at its two new nuclear projects – Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C – in the UK.

Nuclear output last year recovered around 14% as reactors came back online, but overall production remains below previous peaks as maintenance work continues. The average age of France’s nuclear reactors is 36 years. No new power plants have been brought online this decade, but the government has said that this year it will need to build at least 14 new rectors if it is to meet its energy transition goal of reducing fossil fuel dependence from 60% to 40% by 2035.

Energy Transition Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher has recently stressed that nuclear will play an increasingly vital role in France’s energy mix. “We need nuclear power beyond the first six EPRs [European Pressurised Reactors] since the existing (nuclear) park will not be eternal,” she told La Tribune Dimanche earlier this year.

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French President Emmanuel Macron also reinforced his country’s commitment to nuclear at the recent COP28 climate summit in Dubai, where he led a group of 20 world leaders signing a pledge to “triple nuclear energy capacity from 2020 by 2050”.