Wednesday, May 28, 2008

French nuclear safety agency stops construction of flagship nuclear reactor

French nuclear safety agency stops construction of flagship nuclear reactor

Published on May 27, 2008 - 6:34:10 AM
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By: Greenpeace

Paris, 27 May 2008 - Greenpeace has learned that the French nuclear safety agency, ASN, has ordered construction to be suspended on the concrete base slab of the new European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), Flamanville 3, in northern France.

The EPR would be the world's largest reactor and has been presented as the 'flagship' of a supposed international nuclear renaissance. Flamanville's construction has run into the same kinds of problems plaguing ongoing construction of the only other EPR, Olkiluoto 3, in Finland. The move by ASN follows the agency's discovery of chronic problems affecting the quality of construction work since building work commenced on Flamanville 3 in December 2007.

" The French government should face facts: the European Pressurised Reactor is a failed experiment," says Jan Beránek, nuclear campaigner, Greenpeace International. "It's a dangerous roadblock in the way of safe solutions to energy security and climate change. In order to avert catastrophic climate change we need an energy revolution based upon clean renewable energy sources and energy saving."

ASN's call to halt construction follows a series of letters from the agency to Flamanville's construction manager. In the letters, ASN inspectors highlighted a range of problems including non-conformities in the pinning of the steel framework of the concrete base slab, incorrectly positioned reinforcements, inadequacy of technical inspection by both the construction companies and Electricité de France (EdF). Inspectors also uncovered inconsistencies between the blueprint for reinforcement work and the plan for its practical implementation. The incorrect composition of concrete had been used, that may lead to cracks and rapid deterioration in sea air conditions. Samples of concrete were also not collected properly, according to ASN. Cracks have already been observed at part of the base slab beneath the reactor building. The supplier of the steel containment liner reportedly lacks the necessary qualifications. Fabrication of the liner was continuing despite quality failures demonstrating the lack of competence of the supplier. As a result, one quarter of the welds of the steel liner of the reactor containment building were deficient.

"ASN's decision is extremely important. We are pleased EdF will have to explain what is happening," said Yannick Rousselet, energy campaigner at Greenpeace France. "Experience with the EPRs in France and Finland proves that nuclear power is too risky, too late and too expensive. France and Finland must abandon the EPR now." Problems at Flamanville echo those with the first EPR, Olkiluoto 3, being built in Finland. Olkiluoto has been under construction for three years but has been blighted ever since the concrete was poured. Poor quality concrete, bad welds on the containment liner and low-quality reactor components are among its problems. The schedule for completion has been put back by more than two years and costs have nearly doubled to over Euro 5 billion. "French authorities have taken the course of action that Greenpeace has been demanding in Finland, where there have been persistent breaches of quality control with Olkiluoto," said Lauri Myllyvirta, nuclear campaigner with Greenpeace Finland.

Last week, Greenpeace distributed an "EPR Survival Kit" to delegates at the European Nuclear Energy Forum, in Prague summarising problems with EPRs.

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