Sunday, May 22

Nuclear: EDF announces new delays and additional costs for the Flamanville EPR

Initially scheduled to be put into service in 2012, the new generation EPR nuclear reactor at Flamanville (Manche) has been multiplying the setbacks and additional costs since the start of its construction in 2007. This Wednesday, January 12, EDF announced further delays.

In a press release, the French group explains that “the fuel loading date is postponed from the end of 2022 to the second quarter of 2023. The estimate of the cost at completion goes from 12.4 billion euros to 12.7 billion”. Knowing that, since 2007, the initial cost of the project has almost quadrupled.

If the Covid-19 crisis had “a diffuse impact”, “the main point of delay in the planning is linked to the activities of resumption of welding on the secondary circuit”, develops EDF. According to Xavier Ursat, Executive Director in charge of Engineering and New Nuclear Projects, these operations will end at the end of August instead of April.

Last year, the president of the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), Bernard Doroszczuk, had already warned about the lack of “margin” on the construction schedule. Also, at the end of the Council of Ministers, this Wednesday, the government spokesman, Gabriel Attal, underlined the intention of the executive to ensure that EDF “learns the lessons of the various delays” accumulated, in order to “improve the industrial process”.

A necessary readjustment as France prepares to launch a new nuclear reactor construction program, announced by Emmanuel Macron on November 9. Knowing that nuclear power is one of the divisive themes of the presidential campaign, these new setbacks could complicate the task of the government, which has yet to detail the outlines of these future projects.

A “moratorium” requested by Greenpeace

Greenpeace has already called for “a moratorium on the work of the Flamanville EPR, in order to conduct an independent assessment of the viability of EPR nuclear reactors”. The NGO denounces here “yet another delay which disqualifies announcements of new reactors”.

The Flamanville EPR is the only one currently under construction in France, but three other reactors of the same type have come into operation abroad: one in Finland and two in China, at Taishan. In July, one of the two Chinese structures was shut down after an incident due to “a phenomenon of mechanical wear of certain fuel assembly components” which, according to EDF, “does not call into question the EPR model ”.

At the time, ASN nevertheless demanded to understand what had happened in China before giving the green light for the Norman reactor. Today, EDF ensures that “a solution already implemented on the nuclear fleet in operation […] will be reviewed with the French nuclear safety authority ”,“ with a view to the start-up of Flamanville 3 ”.

Fuel loading, postponed until the second quarter of 2023, will be the first step in the launch of the EPR. After that, Flamanville 3 will still have to go through several stages to reach its full commercial service. But Xavier Ursat assures him: “The first megawatt hours will be produced on the network before the end of the year 2023”.

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