Nuclear: “The challenges of the EPR reactor program deserve to be discussed democratically”. The decision to build next-generation nuclear facilities must be the subject of a study of technical, industrial and financial risks, in order to shed light on the necessary parliamentary and public debates, believes Philippe Lorino, expert nuclear engineer, in a forum in the world “.
Le Monde 19th Jan 2022 read more »
France’s nuclear meltdown has big implications for Britain. Nuclear comes with its own set of problems, but UK must press ahead with smaller reactors. France’s nuclear industry is in slow-motion meltdown. A fifth of the country’s 56 reactors are currently shut, mostly because of corrosion and welding problems in the safety injection system. The scale of outages this winter has reached the point where it is tightening Europe’s interlinked energy market, adding to the extreme pressure on electricity, gas and coal prices. It comes at the moment of peak seasonal demand, during the worst global gas shock since the Second World War. The French power network is firing up its old coal plants. These emit 62 times as much CO2. French nuclear output has fallen by 28pc since 2015 and is now at the lowest level in 30 years. The state-owned nuclear company EDF has just cut its target for this year by 10pc to 300-330 terawatt hours (TWh). It will have to buy back the deficit at nose-bleed market prices. The energy minister has warned of possible power rationing for industrial users. The loss of French gigawatts comes on top of the closure – for disastrously ill-timed ideological reasons – of three relatively ‘young’ reactors in Germany at the start of the year. The erosion of Europe’s nuclear base is not the chief cause of the energy crisis but it is not trivial, and it is certainly more relevant than any shortfall in renewable power. The International Energy Agency says European solar power was up 20pc in the fourth quarter compared to a year ago, and wind was up 3pc. Nuclear power will have to play a role in Britain’s decarbonisation drive, if only to ensure basic energy security in a disintegrating geopolitical world order. We are already locked into Hinkley Point. But what is now happening in France is a cautionary reminder that nuclear comes with its own trail of problems. It is not the easy way out on climate change that some fondly hope. The French crisis is doubly disturbing since EDF is supposed to be spearheading Britain’s nuclear revival. The structural faults in the French plants first began to appear at the bigger 1.5 gigawatt reactors, some of recent 1990s vintage. Similar flaws have since been detected in a smaller work-horse reactor. There is clearly a systemic problem. The whole French fleet will have to be checked. When you thought it could not get any worse, EDF has announced a further delay for the new European Pressurised Reactor at Flamanville until 2023, 12 years late and at four times the original budget. This third generation technology is the same prototype as Hinkley 2 under construction in Somerset. One stated reason for the delay is that EDF has been ordered by French regulators to take account of “feedback” from the Taishan 1 sister plant in China, which was closed last July due to damaged fuel rods. Taishan is the only plant using this new technology anywhere in the world. EDF says the Taishan issue “does not question the design of the EPR” – which is supposed to be safer than older variants and therefore fit for post-Fukushima use. This assertion is hotly disputed.
Telegraph 18th Jan 2022 read more »