The technology behind the European pressurised reactor (EPR) is meant to be safer than anything that has gone before. But the project is more than three times over budget and years behind schedule, and France’s nuclear safety authority has found weaknesses in the reactor’s steel. Today, not a single EPR reactor operates anywhere in the world. In Flamanville, the first concrete was poured in 2007. Since then costs have more than tripled to €10.5bn, while the project is six years behind schedule. In Finland, the location of another EPR, the picture is even worse: the Olkiluoto reactor is nearly a decade behind and three times over budget, with the added headache of legal battles over who is to blame. Less is known about two EPR reactors being built in China. What might have been just a colourful tale of shareholder angst took a different turn in 2015, when it emerged that weak spots had been found in the Flamanville reactor’s steel, which is made by another French industrial champion, Areva. France’s Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) said it had found “very serious anomalies” in the reactor vessel. As the regulator deepened its investigation, it warned that the problems could affect other reactors in operation, although it stressed that France’s reactors were safe. In its latest annual report, the ASN described the safety of the country’s 58 nuclear power plants as “satisfactory”, but said it had “significant concerns” for the future as financial pressures build on France’s nuclear industry. The decision on Hinkley Point C may come down to politics. Young at RBC suggests that EDF wants a decision on Hinkley Point C while the UK has a functioning government and before possible Brexit aftershocks complicate the picture. “If you are EDF, why would you want to wait and run the risk of a snap election being called?” he says. A future government could change its mind on the project, Whitehall’s official spending watchdog has said, warning of a “tidal wave” of pressures from an impending Brexit.
Guardian 27th July 2016 read more »