France Ends Nuclear Energy Reports; Traders See `Step Backward

France Ends Nuclear Energy Reports; Traders See `Step Backward

France, the world’s largest producer of nuclear energy, stopped reporting the weekly operations at the nation’s 58 reactors, ending disclosure of data used by traders to buy and sell power and by environmental groups to track safety.

The French Nuclear Safety Authority, known as ASN, discontinued release of the figures at the end of September and has no plans to reinstate the updates, Evangelie Petit, a spokeswoman for the agency, said yesterday in an interview. Electricite de France SA, which owns the reactors, also said it doesn’t plan to release the information.

For years, electricity traders in Europe had used the reports to follow plant shutdowns and estimate future halts, which cut power supply and threaten to drive prices higher around the continent. The status of the nation’s plants, which provide about 84 percent of French power, had been updated weekly on the agency’s Web site.

“Any removal of generation data that has been in the public domain is clearly a step backward,” said Peter Styles, chairman of the electricity committee at EFET, an industry group for European energy traders.

European countries including Spain, the U.K. and Sweden have Web sites that disclose information about individual plants. Figures about power generation capacity can help calculate prices for buyers.

`Huge Worry’

Greenpeace France, an environmental group, said citizens will have a tougher time determining whether local reactors are operating or not.

“The lack of information is a huge worry here in France,” said Frederic Marillier, a nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace. “It’s totally ridiculous.”

In countries without public plant information, traders who work for power companies have an edge because they get early alerts when generators shut down and start up.

Four electricity industry groups, in France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, in June proposed regulations requiring greater transparency, including aggregated data by fuel source. The groups said then they expected changes to be made in the fourth quarter.

Dutch energy companies, including Essent NV and Nuon NV, plan to start reporting daily data about power production this month, Sjoerd Marbus, a spokesman for EnergieNed, a Dutch industry group, said yesterday. Data will be shown by combined fuel source and not on an individual plant basis, he said.

`Level Playing Field’

The proposal is aimed at creating “a level playing field” for all market participants, the June statement said. Germany’s four-biggest power companies publish aggregated plant data.

“Any solution for increasing the availability of data will have to include the biggest French and German generators,” said Styles. Germany and France are Europe’s first- and second- biggest power markets, respectively.

Styles’ organization represents banks such as Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch & Co., Deutsche Bank AG and Barclays Capital, as well as power producers including E.ON AG and Electricite de France.

The ASN statistics had been published as a compilation for each reactor for at least the past four years.

“We made the decision to stop publishing the production data,” said Petit, a Paris-based spokeswoman for ASN. “Our mission is control and implementation, not production. That’s truly the domain of EDF.”

`Ping Pong’

Petit said the site would still be updated for individual plants when the agency had information to transmit.

Electricite de France, Europe’s largest utility by market value, said it didn’t ask for the changes by the ASN and has no plans for wider distribution of its plant data.

“EDF continues to send information about its production to the ASN, but ASN has decided to stop publication,” Agnes Nemes, a spokeswoman for EDF in Paris, said in an interview two days ago. “EDF has no plan to publish it. For us it’s considered confidential information.” She repeated late yesterday that plans haven’t changed.

The French Union of Electricity, a trade group, said it has no plans to publish more plant data, be it EDF reactors or other fuel sources, according to spokeswoman Muriel Soubeyrand. France’s energy regulator also doesn’t have access to the information and has no plans to get the data, said spokesman Christophe Feuillet.

“The problem specific to France is we have no legal recourse to obtain the information if the ASN doesn’t give it,” said Greenpeace’s Marillier. “If they decide it’s not in the interest of the public, then it won’t be published.”

European Commission energy spokesman Ferran Tarradellas Espuny said he wasn’t immediately able to comment when reached by telephone yesterday in Prague.

EDF said it will provide the information to individuals who call a dedicated “green line” for each plant.

“You can call, but it will be a game of ping pong before you get an answer, which may or may not be right,” said Marillier. “A citizen should be able to know if their nearby reactor is working or not.”

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