The French state-owned group building Britain’s new £18 billion nuclear plant faced a further setback yesterday when it was ordered to replace a key component on a similar reactor under construction in France. The decision by France’s nuclear watchdog threw a renewed spotlight on to growing safety concerns at the heart of the French atomic industry. A report by the Nuclear Safety Authority pinpointed an “anomaly in the chemical composition” of the vessel at the European pressurised reactor being built by EDF in Flamanville. The nuclear authority said that the flaw – a problem with the carbon concentration in the steel – would not prevent the reactor from coming on stream next year as planned. The ruling was a relief to EDF, which had feared a further delay to a project that is running six years behind schedule and 7 billion euros over budget. However, the watchdog said: “The anomaly . . . entails a reduction in the margins with respect to the fast fracture risk.” It said that the vessel closure head would have to be replaced by 2024. Anticipating the ruling, EDF is understood to have ordered a replacement at a cost of several hundred million euros. EDF was also ordered to carry out regular inspections on the reactor vessel bottom.
Times 29th June 2017 read more »
A group of experts at the French nuclear safety authority have cleared EDF’s Flamanville 3 nuclear reactor to start as planned next year – despite weak spots in its steel. The group’s non-binding recommendation will be used by the safety authority, the ASN, to formulate a final ruling on October. But the decision makes it likely the reactor will get the final green light. Completion of the next-generation reactor had been thrown into doubt after the discovery in 2015 of weak spots in the steel prompted an extensive safety review by the ASN. The stakes are high for French nuclear groups EDF and Areva because it would cost billions of euros to fix if the ASN had ruled that the steel was too brittle. The sign off by the ASN is also a European Commission pre condition for approving EDF’s planned takeover of Areva’s reactor business. The group of experts did recommend, however, that EDF put in place a new reactor cover by 2024.
FT 28th June 2017 read more »
On 28th June 2017, ASN presented its position regarding the Flamanville EPR reactor pressure vessel anomaly. ASN relied on the analysis of the files transmitted by Areva NP and EDF, carried out by its nuclear pressure equipment department and its technical support organisation IRSN, and on the opinion of its Advisory Committee for nuclear pressure equipment. On the basis of the technical analyses carried out, ASN considers that the mechanical characteristics of the pressure vessel bottom head and closure head are adequate with regard to the loadings to which these parts are subjected, including accident situations. However, the anomaly in the chemical composition of the steel entails a reduction in the margins with respect to the fast fracture risk. ASN therefore considers that EDF must implement additional periodic inspections to ensure that no flaws appear subsequently. ASN observes that such inspections can be performed on the vessel bottom head and therefore considers that they must be implemented. However, the technical feasibility of similar inspections on the pressure vessel closure head is not established. ASN therefore considers that the use of the closure head must be limited in time. It notes that it would take about seven years to manufacture a new closure head, which could thus be available by the end of 2024. In these conditions, ASN considers that the current closure head shall not be operated beyond that date.
ASN 28th June 2017 read more »
The IRSN and the Nuclear Pressure Equipment Directorate (DEP) of the ASN conclude from their joint investigation of the dossier submitted by Areva NP that if the suitability for the lid and bottom of the EPR reactor vessel Flamanville is demonstrated, in-service monitoring arrangements must be implemented. At this stage, the feasibility of these checks appears to have been acquired for the bottom of the tank, the same is not true for the lid.
IRSN 28th June 2017 read more »
The Nuclear Safety Authority (NSA) is under unprecedented pressure from EDF and AREVA. This unprecedented situation shows that ASN’s decision is no longer limited to nuclear safety: it has become a political one. What do EDF and AREVA want to do? Derogating from the most basic standards of nuclear safety so that the Flamanville EPR is put into operation despite its defective parts. Behind the authorization of this tank of the EPR, it is indeed the survival of the French nuclear industry is at stake. Indeed, EDF and AREVA play a big part in the EPR in Flamanville. The decisions that will be taken on this site will have far-reaching consequences for the future of the projects sold in the United Kingdom, Finland and China. We appeal to the responsibility of Nicolas Hulot, Minister of Ecological and Solidarity Transition and in charge of nuclear safety. The ASN can no longer take a safety decision independently and cannot resist the pressure. As for us French citizens, we do not have to pay the price of strategic and technical errors of EDF and AREVA. By putting an end to the Flamanville shipyard, Nicolas Hulot can still avoid it.
Greenpeace 28th June 2017 read more »