Electricite de France SA is set to return to full state ownership on Thursday, almost 18 years after its listing on the Paris stock exchange. Its nationalization ends a bumpy ride for shareholders but many challenges still loom large for the debt-laden nuclear behemoth, Report informs via Bloomberg.

The €9.7 billion ($10.4 billion) bill for nationalizing EDF has bought the French government the power to align the strategy of Europe’s biggest electricity producer with its own priorities — keeping power prices affordable, investing in new reactors and expanding renewables. But the utility’s baggage means the state won’t have an entirely free hand.

Faulty pipework at some reactors continues to curb output, while new plants suffer from construction delays and budget overruns. EDF’s net financial debt has become a considerable burden, soaring by 50% to €64.5 billion last year as it posted a record loss.

“EDF’s debt is a bit of a ball and chain,” said Nicolas Goldberg, a partner in charge of energy at Colombus Consulting in Paris. The company needs to fix its balance sheet to tackle “a wall of investment” on new nuclear, renewables and power networks, he said.

EDF’s French nuclear output plunged 23% last year to 279 terawatt-hours, the lowest since 1988 because of lengthy reactor outages to check and repair pipes affected by stress corrosion. That exacerbated Europe’s energy crisis and pushed electricity prices higher just as the French utility had to buy power on wholesale markets to cover its production shortfall, eventually costing it €29 billion.

Since then, EDF has made progress in replacing the faulty pipes of its reactors, but a heavy inspection regime still to come leaves room for surprises. The company expects production to be in a range of 300 to 330 terawatt-hours this year and 315 to 345 terawatt-hours next year, still a far cry from the 380 terawatt-hours generated in 2019.