The cover of the reactor vessel EDF is building in Flamanville, France, may not be able to function more than a few years unless the utility can do additional tests which so far it has not be able to, nuclear regulator ASN said in a report. While the long-awaited report, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, concludes the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) is fit for service, EDF may have to replace its vessel cover soon after its scheduled start-up in 2018. The requirement is a major blow for EDF, which will have to start planning for a costly replacement of a key part before the reactor even starts up. The reputational damage could also add to concerns in Britain about its 18 billion pound ($23 billion) project to build two similar EPR reactors in southwest England. The French regulator had ordered a deep review of the Flamanville vessel following the discovery in 2015 of carbon concentrations in the base and cover of the containment vessel, which make its steel more brittle. The report – led by the IRSN, the ASN’s technical arm – is being reviewed by a group of independent experts on Monday and Tuesday. This autumn, ASN will partly base its final ruling on Flamanville on the experts’ recommendations. The ASN report states that while the base of the vessel is fit for service despite the need for increased monitoring over its lifetime, manufacturer Areva NP has not been able to conduct sufficient tests on the cover as it is no longer accessible. These controls are indispensable in order to ensure the reactor’s safety over its 60-year lifetime, the report says.
Reuters 26th June 2017 read more »
[Machine Translation] A group of experts is meeting Monday and Tuesday to discuss the “fitness for service” of the tank and lid of the Flamanville EPR. About thirty members of the Permanent Expert Group on Nuclear Pressure Equipment (GPESPN) have met since Monday morning and for two days at the ASN to discuss the “fitness for service” of The tank and the lid of the EPR under construction at Flamanville (Manche). Two years ago, ASN announced that the steel used to forge the caps of these two parts had a carbon content above the expected levels. What could potentially weaken the resistance of these critical equipment for the safety of the nuclear reactor, which is scheduled to be commissioned in 2019 by EDF after years of delays. Since the revelation of this “serious anomaly, even very serious” by ASN President Pierre-Franck Chevet, Areva and EDF have demonstrated the resistance of the tank and its lid, Despite the underperformance of steel. After six months of calculating the calculations carried out by Areva on representative parts of the tank and the lid, IRSN and the ASN service specialized in pressure equipment have drafted a first technical report, which Serves as a working basis for members of the GPESPN. According to Reuters, quoting the text given to the experts, “the rapporteur considers that the anomaly does not call into question the suitability for service of the bottom of the tank provided that the controls of the bottom of the tank provided by EDF Are adapted so as to be able to detect the set of defects “. EDF believes that these controls can be carried out. On the other hand, “the rapporteur considers that the suitability for the current lid of the EPR reactor tank in Flamanville is not sustainable in the absence of sufficient in-service controls. And the debate crystallizes on the ability to control the performance of the lid. EDF does not therefore exclude replacing this part, within a few years, as the ASN may request. After two days of discussions between experts (including EDF and Areva executives, as well as DCNS, Bureau Veritas, Onet Technologies, metalworkers, etc.), the GPESPN will deliver its opinion, Before the ASN college deliberates to issue its preliminary decision. This will then be submitted for public consultation, before a definitive opinion is sent by the ASN, expected in September.
Les Echos 26th June 2017 read more »
[Machine Translation] EPR of Flamanville: a report warns EDF on the reliability of the lid of the tank. The Nuclear Safety Authority considers that this centerpiece of the plant will have to be rapidly replaced after the reactor is put into service by the end of 2018. At the end of 2016, Areva and EDF submitted a dossier on this tank, a 420-tonne forged item in the Areva plant in Creusot Forge (Saône-et-Loire) in 2006-2007. According to the manufacturer of this component and its future operator, it passed some 2 000 tests and checks successfully, in the presence of ASN engineers. These tests were to ensure that, despite the too high carbon concentration of its bottom and lid, the tank of this third-generation pressurized nuclear reactor, which will be operated for at least sixty years, is capable of Resist thermal shock and high pressures, including accidental situations. If the tank itself is deemed fit for service, its lid will have to be changed a few years after the start of operation, scheduled for the end of 2018. “The use of the current tank cover Could be envisaged beyond a few years of operation without the necessary controls to strengthen the second level of defense in depth “, notes the report of the Institute of Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) , Armed ASN, revealed by the Reuters news agency. EDF says that the Flamanville EPR will start at the end of 2018 – six years behind schedule and a threefold increase in the initial estimate (to 10.5 billion euros). The approval of the tank by the ASN is one of the conditions set by the European Commission to authorize the purchase of Areva NP, the manufacturer of the reactors, by EDF. The recapitalization of Areva (5 billion euros) planned this year is also subject to a green light on the tank.
Le Monde 26th June 2017 read more »
[Machine Translation] They are only five hundred, but they hold your lives in their hands. Experts from the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), reinforced by the 1,700 agents of the Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Institute (IRSN), are responsible for controlling the activities of the French industry, from power plants to Reactors and fuel to the laboratories of the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). On Monday 26 and Tuesday 27 June, they were to discuss the future of the EPR in Flamanville (Manche). Despite defects in the forging of the tank where the nuclear reaction occurred, they were about to judge it to be good for the service, by means of reinforced controls. And thus to reopen a trial in legitimacy that had almost disappeared as the nuclear “gendarme” was more intractable in its controls and more severe in its opinions. The President of this independent authority, appointed for six years by the President of the Republic, is irrevocable. Over the years, ASN has gained legitimacy, leading the hard life to EDF and Areva and establishing itself as one of the most respected authorities in the world. First under the rule of André-Claude Lacoste, then of his successor Pierre-Franck Chevet. Would ASN do too much? Would she be overly anxious? “A problem can not be solved by denying it,” replies the current patron willingly to his detractors. He did not hide, in January, that “the situation with regard to nuclear safety and radiation protection is worrying”. Not that the French are under the threat of a nuclear catastrophe, but because we have entered the post-Fukushima era and that “an unprecedented period of stakes” opens for this sector. The list of these stakes is long: modernization of the 58 EDF reactors and spent fuel reprocessing plants, upgrading Areva plants manufacturing plant components, Cigéo control, the contested underground waste storage project Very radioactive in Bure (Meuse), certification of new reactors … And all this in a context where calendars and costs erode everywhere, such as those of the EPR, the international Iter project or the Jules Horowitz research reactor.
Le Monde 27th June 2017 read more »