[Machine Translation] The leaders of EDF and Areva are now sure of this: at the end of June, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) will give its first opinion on the EPR reactor in Flamanville. In April 2015, the nuclear “gendarme” revealed that the lid and the bottom of the pressure vessel, manufactured at the Areva plant in Creusot Forge, Saône-et-Loire, in 2006-2007 had too high concentrations of carbon, which may reduce its ability to withstand thermal pressures and shocks. An unacceptable situation. The ASN president, Pierre-Franck Chevet, described the anomaly as “serious, even very serious” and asked the manufacturer and the future operator to carry out all kinds of tests to ensure its resistance. “We are more confident than ever to get the approval of the tank and elements of the primary circuit of Flamanville 3,” EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Levy said on June 6 in an interview with Les Echos. “The elements brought by Areva are generally reassuring, confirms a source close to the file. More than 1,700 trials were conducted on three sacrificial caps similar to those of the EPR. The results show that the bottom as well as the lid of the vessel are suitable for use. ” The ASN will decide on the basis of a report drawn up jointly by its own Directorate for Nuclear Pressure Equipment and the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN). The endorsement of the ASN should nonetheless be accompanied by an undertaking from EDF to strengthen the controls of the tank during operation. The steel integrity of the tanks of the 58 reactors in service in France is usually checked within two to three years after commissioning, and then every ten years during the ten-year visit. These controls are usually carried out only on the “core ferrule”, the part most exposed to neutron bombardment. For the EPR, the third-generation reactor, they should be extended to both deformed caps. The opinion of the ASN will be formalized in a “draft position” published at the end of the meeting of the Permanent Expert Group on Nuclear Pressure Equipment on 26 and 27 June, to give its opinion. This document will then be submitted to a “public consultation” until September, before ASN issues a final verdict. However, the regulatory decision authorizing the commissioning of this part will only take place “at the end of 2017 or at the beginning of 2018”, once all the tests have been completed, in particular the hydraulic pressurisation of the primary circuit to check its tightness. EDF’s executives admitted that they had “no plan B” in the event of rejection by the ASN. EDF is still planning a start-up in the last quarter of 2018, but it will be the loading of the fuel into the reactor. Commercial commissioning will not be effective until 2019, after months of testing. It will intervene after the start of the first EPR in Taishan (southern China), and probably after that of Olkiluoto (Finland), built by Areva and lagging behind for seven years. The green light from the ASN on the tank is crucial for the French sector. The European Commission has made it one of its conditions for EDF to buy New NP (2.5 billion), the former Areva-NP in charge of designing, constructing and maintaining nuclear reactors. The operation will take place at the end of 2017, if another suspensive condition is fulfilled: the positive results of the international audit conducted at the New NP plants in Chalon-Saint-Marcel (Saône-et-Loire) and Jeumont (Nord) Of the Creusot. Several irregularities had been detected by the ASN in the keeping of records and control of the products of this forge, one of the most powerful in the world. These shortcomings were spread over several decades within the site bought by Areva in 2006, when its president, Anne Lauvergeon, positioned the group on all the nuclear professions. New NP will have to demonstrate its ability to “guarantee the quality of future manufacturing within this plant”, warned ASN.
Le Monde 20th June 2017 read more »