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EDF sees more maintenance ahead at nuclear plants

PARIS, Oct 12 (Reuters) - French electricity giant EDF

will have to undertake more work to maintain its ageing nuclear reactors in the next few years, a senior executive at the state-owned utility said on Friday.

France, the world's most nuclear-reliant nation, has been grappling with heavy maintenance work and delayed restarts at its reactors for the past six months.

"The fleet's average age is 26 years. A lot of once-a-decade reviews are coming due. We are going to face a denser period of maintenance," Herve Machenaud, group executive director in charge of production and engineering at EDF, told Reuters.

"It is true for 2013, 2014, and even more true for 2015. And this until 2020," he said.

France must invest billions of euros to improve the safety systems of its nuclear facilities so they can withstand the kind of extreme shocks that triggered the Fukushima nuclear accident, French nuclear watchdog ASN said in January.

This has an impact on the availability of its reactors, which meet three-quarters of electricity consumption.

Online French nuclear power capacity stood at just 75 percent on Friday, much lower than the 95 percent of last February.

Should that level fail to pick up ahead of the winter's power consumption peak, this could create a potential supply crisis and spark local blackouts in the event of a severe cold spell, as experienced last winter.

EDF's Machenaud struck a confident note on Friday, however.

"We are ready. There are no worries. Only two plants will be under maintenance in January," he said.

(Reporting by Marion Douet; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Keywords: FRANCE EDF/