EDF alerted over nuclear plant

Written by The Financial Times | Updated: Aug 26 2011, 09:28am hrs
By James Boxell in Paris

The French nuclear safety watchdog has asked EDF to fix a series of gaps and weaknesses in its 6bn-euro ($8.6bn) flagship project to build a next-generation atomic plant in France, putting more pressure on a programme beset by spiralling costs and delays.

In a letter to the company, sent at the end of June but which came to light on Wednesday, the countrys atomic watchdog highlighted 13 areas of concern about one of the worlds biggest and most important nuclear power developments. The 1,650-megawatt plant at Flamanville in Normandy is the first new reactor to be built in France for 15 years.

The report was sent after a team of inspectors visited the site and some of the companies and subcontractors building the plant - including EDF and Areva - between March and May.

In his letter, Jean-Luc Lachaume, deputy director-general of the nuclear safety authority, told EDF that given the gaps and weaknesses identified during this inspection review, we consider that [the company] will have to make great efforts to demonstrate the final quality of the construction of Flamanville 3.

EDF, the worlds biggest electricity supplier, said on Wednesday it had already answered some of the watchdogs concerns and would address the rest by the end of this month.

It also stressed that the Flamanville project was being closely controlled by the safety authority, which was carrying out safety examinations every 15 days, and as a result its feedback was business as usual.

In its report, the watchdog highlighted particular concerns around a system for steam generators and some inconsistencies in requirements given to subcontractors.

The letter comes at a difficult time for the nuclear industry after the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in Japan in March.

The EDF project to build the so-called European Pressurised Reactor or EPR is being closely watched around the world, with France eager to export its nuclear expertise. The company is developing EPRs in China and is planning four identical plants in Britain.

However, it was forced last month to delay the commercial launch of Flamanville 3 to 2016 and lift expected costs to 6bn euros, compared with original targets of 2012 and 3.3bn euros.

EDF said the delays had been caused by fatal accidents on the site and stricter safety checks after Fukushima.

The Financial Times Limited 2011