The French and UK regulatory authorities would of course have an important role in scrutinising such plans and I hope that enough information can be released to give the French and UK publics reasonable confidence in what may be proposed.
The French Nuclear fleet is much more standardised in design than our nuclear power stations were, and if their are systematic issues which increase the risk of an accident even allowing for the PLEX work, then the facts should be released so that they can be debated in public. If much of the French nuclear fleet cannot be life-extended then this would be a very significant problem for French energy security and presumably be a very strong upward pressure on the price of natural gas and other fossil fuels across the whole of Europe.
At the moment the UK government says it wants 16 GW of new third generation nuclear power stations operating in the UK by 2030 (EPR, AWBR, AP1000 etc). This target is now impossible to achieve. The very best that £30 billion of tax payer guaranteed third generation nuclear investments can now bring is 5.9 GW extra generation capacity by 2030 [two plants at Hinkley Point and two plants at Wylfa]. As Sizewell B will be the only legacy nuclear power station operating in the UK by then, the best £30 billion of tax payer guaranteed funds brings us by 2030 is 1 or 2 GW less nuclear generating capacity than we currently have.
None of new third generation nuclear operators will have to pay commercial insurance or pay commercial rates for their nuclear spent fuel and waste to be safely stored underground for tens of thousands of years. All the existing long term problems that the nuclear industry face in terms of waste classification, handling and storage remain unsolved.
Given the age of the French Nuclear Plants we are talking about PLEX work that will keep most of them running from roughly 2020 to 2040.
My worries are not about our ability to meet energy needs into the 2030's (as long as we do not prematurely shut our coal stations), they are about what happens after that. Shale gas is a short term resource (a few decades at most) - fast to ramp up and very quick to run out. I believe we have to be in a position to start the ramp up fourth generation nuclear from 2035 onwards.
High Temperature Molten salt reactors (700 to 1000 DegC) of small modular design will provide direct process heat for energy intensive industries (including steel, aluminium and chemicals industries) and higher thermal efficiency electricity generation (50% instead of 35%). Higher efficiency means less water usage, and even allows the option of a Braden gas cycle, to reduce water use still further.
If we want to role out say 8 to 16 GWt per year cost effectively we have to dump third generation nuclear. Between now and 2035 new third generation nuclear is just a distraction from the main tasks at hand in the next 20 years...
1) safe and reliable life extensions of existing nuclear plant.
2) shale gas exploitation with local public consent
3) development of high temperature molten salt nuclear reactors and new more cost effective waste handling, separation and storage techniques
4) bringing down the cost of offshore wind, solar and tidal range/stream power for more mainstream roll-out at commercially competitive prices.
We might achieve the governments 16 GW third generation nuclear target between 2040 and 2050 if there is no revolution in the face of spiralling energy and food costs. China now aims to have their first prototype molten reactor operational by 2024. Investor's money and the best engineering talent will be following on their coat-tails.
To assign £30 billion of public loan guarantees so that certain favoured energy companies are allowed to double the real terms cost of electricity they sell into the market; to use the law of the land to lock-in these high energy prices, index linked for another 35 years, using secret contracts (the public will never get to see and scrutinise); the only possible explanation for this conduct is seriously stupid, utterly corrupt or just plain mad.
How can the nuclear industry attract the very best young engineers into the nuclear industry on this basis? Well I think pn current government plans the best most thoughtful and inventive young engineers will want to go and work in biotech, aerospace, agriculture or with satellite technology instead - where they can work on new exciting technologies.