Inspectors from China, the US and other countries are investigating a long-standing cover-up of manufacturing problems at a key supplier to the nuclear power industry and whether flaws introduced in a French factory represent a safety threat worldwide. The team visited Areva’s Le Creusot Forge site this month to examine quality controls and comb through its internal records, The Wall Street Journal said. A string of discoveries triggered the expanded review. First, French investigators said that they found steel components made at Le Creusot and used in nuclear-power plants in France had excess carbon levels, making them more vulnerable to rupture. Then, the investigators discovered files suggesting that for decades Le Creusot employees had concealed manufacturing problems involving hundreds of components sold to customers around the world.
Times 14th Dec 2016 read more »
Inspectors from the U.S. and other countries are investigating a decades long cover up of manufacturing problems at a key supplier to the nuclear power industry, probing whether flaws introduced in a French factory represent a safety threat to reactors world-wide. Inspectors from the U.S., China and four other nations visited Areva SA’s Le Creusot Forge in central France earlier this month to examine the plant’s quality controls and comb through its internal records. A string of discoveries triggered the newly expanded review: First, French investigators said they found steel components made at Le Creusot and used in nuclear-power plants across France had excess carbon levels, making them more vulnerable to rupture. Then, the investigators discovered files suggesting Le Creusot employees for decades had concealed manufacturing problems involving hundreds of components sold to customers around the world. The disclosure of flaws covered up by Le Creusot led to two reactor shutdowns this summer in France, and in September authorities ordered Areva to check 6,000 manufacturing files by hand, covering every nuclear part made at Le Creusot since the 1960s. “I’m concerned that there keep being more and more problems unveiled,” said Kerri Kavanagh, who leads the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s unit inspecting Le Creusot. Regulators are considering returning to Le Creusot or inspecting Areva’s Lynchburg, Va., offices to deepen their probe of the plant, a U.S. official said. On Wednesday, Paris prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation into whether Le Creusot’s activities were fraudulent and dangerous, according to a spokeswoman for prosecutors. Beyond France, regulators are trying to determine whether other nuclear facilities that relied on components from Le Creusot are safe. Finnish inspectors visiting the forge last week said they learned of potential flaws in a component slated for a reactor in the southwestern island of Olkiluoto. In the U.S., the NRC has identified at least nine nuclear plants that use large components from Le Creusot. Officials and experts said the instances of manufacturing problems at Le Creusot are rare in the nuclear industry, where strict adherence to production and operating rules forms a crucial buffer against nuclear accidents. “Having worked for over 30 years in France, I did not think this was possible for this country,” said Mycle Schneider, an independent nuclear energy consultant. “Likely we have seen only the tip of the iceberg.” Of the nine plants in the U.S. with parts from Le Creusot, at least one has a component with documentation problems, according to the NRC. Areva informed its owner, Dominion Resources Inc., that a manufacturing problem wasn’t detailed in final documents given to Dominion for its Millstone plant in Connecticut. Areva and Dominion say the discrepancy isn’t a threat to the safety of the Millstone reactor.
Wall St Journal 13th Dec 2016 read more »
France’s EDF asked nuclear safety authority ASN to postpone the outage of the 1.5-GW Civaux-1 and the 900-MW Tricastin-2 reactors to March and February respectively, while confirming the restart of the remaining four reactors due back online on December 31. “We asked for Tricastin-2 to be delayed towards February and Civaux-to to March,” an EDF spokesman said Monday, speaking during a press call. “If the reply is positive it will be easier for us.” The Civaux-1 and Tricastin-2 reactors are currently both due to go offline December 23 and return on January 15.
Platts 13th Dec 2016 read more »
France is set to have its usual nuclear power capacity almost completely restored by mid-January, after a number of plants come back online following inspections. Only 4 out of 58 nuclear power plants will be offline by the middle of next month, and power prices have fallen sharply, as worries about shortages eased. EDF confirmed on Monday that seven nuclear reactors shut down for safety checks would be up and running again by the end of December and there would be no problem with power supplies this winter. The company said its reactors were safe and also confirmed revised 2016 targets for nuclear production of 378-385 terawatt hours, as well as for its core earnings. Grid operator RTE said that three of the seven reactors offline – Gravelines 2, Dampierre 3 and Tricastin 3 – would resume production from December 20th and that four more would restart before December 31st. The seven reactors are among 12 that have been slated for inspections under orders from the nuclear regulator ASN following the discovery of high carbon concentrations, which could weaken their steel.
Power Engineering International 13th Dec 2016 read more »