The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) is today concerned to read further serious safety issues with the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) being built at the Flamanville site in France. It calls on the UK nuclear regulator and Areva-EDF to understand these design concerns in reference to plans for Hinkley Point C. NFLA believe these serious issues will significantly delay final construction of EPRs being built in France and China, and almost certainly further delay any commencement of the project to build EPRs at Hinkley Point C.
A detailed report by the independent WISE-Paris bureau highlights concerns publicly raised last week by the French nuclear regulator ASN. This relates to fabrication defects detected at the end of 2014 by Areva in upper and lower heads of the reactor pressure vessels at the Flamanville-3 reactor, which WISE argue are ‘very serious mechanical defaults’. Essentially, the steel used in the reactor pressure vessel contains too much carbon, which can weaken the vessel’s structure and breaches safety rules. (1) WISE argue these faults ‘strongly put into question the safety case of the EPR currently under construction in Normandy.’ (2)
This is important for UK nuclear policy as EDF are seeking to put two or three EPR design reactors at the Hinkley Point site in Somerset and the Sizewell site in Suffolk.
WISE–Paris note: “If Areva fails to provide a convincing alternative proof to complete the safety case, then the only alternative option is to repair or replace the faulty pieces… Any repair or replacement would therefore almost certainly need the entire pressure vessel to be removed, which would be unprecedented and seems very challenging given the progress of work and lack of space within the reactor building.”
WISE-Paris argues this would be an issue for the Hinkley Point project if forging of steel for the reactor pressure vessels has already been prepared.
For the NFLA, these reported safety defects highlight the ongoing unreliability of the Areva technology being planned for Hinkley Point and Sizewell. They have to also be a factor in the real difficulty with which EDF is encountering in finding investors for the £14 billion per reactor project. And they provide new challenges to the UK nuclear regulators to ensure they are content with the technological designs and quality control of the EPR as planned for UK sites.
It is also clear that these safety defects will lengthen the time it will take to construct new nuclear reactors in France, and possibly those in China and Finland. Let‟s not forget that construction at Flamanville started over 8 years ago, and this delay could easily add a number of additional years to the project. With all these technical, financial and regulatory risks, NFLA believe the next UK Government should seriously review the Hinkley Point C project and reconsider the financing of it, which itself is already subject to legal challenge at the European level.
NFLA Chair Councillor Mark Hackett said:
The report of serious and fundamental safety defects with the EPR design at reactors identical to those being planned for Hinkley Point and Sizewell is another devastating blow to the proponents of new nuclear build in the UK. The EPR design has been bedevilled with problems and it is looking increasingly likely that it is impossible to build. With an election just a few weeks away, it is incumbent on the new government to make an immediate and fundamental review of this project and wider UK energy policy. NFLA advocates a simpler, cheaper, more cost effective, waste free, low carbon and sustainable alternative energy policy. Renewable energy with energy efficiency and decentralised microgeneration has to be prioritised at the expense of new nuclear. The time is surely right to move on from new nuclear as part of our future energy mix.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) Climate News Network, ‘Unfinished nuclear plants raise safety doubts’, 13th April 2015 http://www.climatenewsnetwork.net/unfinished-nuclear-plants-raise-safety-doubts/
(2) Wise-Paris Briefing, ‘Fabrication flaws in the Pressure Vessel of Flamanville-3’, 12th April 2015 https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/25762794/20150412Fabrication-Flaws-EPR-Flamanville-v2.pdf