France gets nearly 80% of its electricity from its 58 reactors. However, such a heavy reliance on nuclear power brings with it many major, unsolved problems, most especially that of radioactive waste. Despite assertions to the contrary, the French nuclear story is far from a gleaming example of nuclear success.



One year to stop startup of flawed French reactor

As it turns out, ostriches don’t really bury their heads in the sand. But since this is a popular metaphor, its application could never be more appropriate than when applied to the goings-on around the French EPR reactor project in Flamanville on the Normandy coast.

The EPR was once touted as the great white hope of the French nuclear sector. Since it has instead been an abject failure, the nuclear powers that be have plunged into such denial about it that even a therapist would wring her hands and despair of the patient.

The EPR at Flamaville, the flagship site, is years behind schedule. So is its EPR counterpart in Finland. The EPR design is also targeted for the Hinkley-C site in the UK but is not underway there yet. Finland is three times over budget at $10 billion. The Flamanville budget has also more than tripled, to $12.5 billion and counting. It has a flawed vessel head, forged at Areva’s Le Creusot factory, now exposed to have not only manufactured faulty safety parts for numerous other reactors, but falsified its quality control documents as well.

“If the nuclear industry wants to have a future it cannot afford more projects like this,” bemoaned a Finnish utility executive.

But for the French nuclear regulator it’s all “pas de probleme!” The timing, they admit, might be “tight,” the flawed reactor vessel head “is not of the best possible quality”, and there may still be “some difficulties” ahead. But the regulator is planning to switch on Flamanville anyway, possibly by the end of 2018. Never mind the expense, and never mind the fact any severe shaking could rupture the flawed vessel head and lead to a meltdown. People of Normandy be damned!

We have just over one year left to fight Flamanville and prevent what could be a lethal decision to start up this untested reactor. Beyond Nuclear continues to work with our French anti-nuclear colleagues in every capacity available to support their efforts to get this project permanently stopped.


Coverup at French Nuclear Supplier Sparks Global Review

As reported by Reuters, and Tweeted by Scott Stapf of the Hastings Group: Nine U.S. reactors linked to French scandal over falsified documents over nuclear parts.

The Reuters article mentions one U.S. nuclear power plant by name:

One U.S. plant with parts from Le Creusot is Dominion Resource Inc's Millstone station in Connecticut, which has had a pressurizer from the French forge in service in Unit 2 since 2006.

Dominion spokesman Ken Holt said that when Areva manufactured the pressurizer for Millstone they performed some additional heat treatment, but did not tell Dominion.

Another U.S. nuclear power plant that may be implicated, according to the article, is FirstEnergy's Beaver Valley in Pennsylvania:

Another plant that may be affected is FirstEnergy Corp's Beaver Valley station in Pennsylvania. Beaver Valley has steam generators and reactor vessel heads manufactured by Spain's Equipos Nucleares SA, or ENSA, which FirstEnergy said may contain some subcomponents from Le Creusot.

The article also reports:

There are nine U.S. plants with parts from Le Creusot, but the NRC did not immediately name them.

No explanation is given for why NRC will not name th implicated nuclear power plants, other than the obvious -- to save the plants bad publicity, and increased public and media scrutiny. 

Such a lack of transparency and accountability by the NRC -- an agency largely to entirely captured by the industry it is supposed to regulate -- is a key part of the collusion that the Japanese Parliament concluded in 2012 was the root cause of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in that country. But such collusion exists in spades in the United States, as well. 

But Areva supplies nuclear safety equipment worldwide, not just in the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal has also reported on this story, in an article entitled "Coverup at French Nuclear Supplier Sparks Global Review."

Mycle Schneider, lead author of the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal, warning “Likely we have seen only the tip of the iceberg.”


France to reduce nuclear power by one-third by 2025

As reported by EUObserver:

Luxembourg's PM Xavier Bettel offered on Monday to help France finance the closure of the Cattenom nuclear power plant near its borders. French PM Manuel Valls visiting Luxembourg pledged to cut French reliance on nuclear energy from more than 75 percent to 50 percent by shutting 24 reactors by 2025.

This one-third reduction of nuclear power in France is actually bigger than Germany's better known nuclear power phase out by 2022, because Germany has so many fewer reactors than France. France, with 58 reactors, is the second most of any country (the U.S. has the most, with 99 currently operating). In terms of percentage of electricity generated by nuclear power, France is the worst in the world, at 75%. But a major reduction is planned over the course of the coming decade.


"France Plans to Reduce Nuclear in Favor of Renewables"

As reported by Eric Marx and ClimateWire/E&E, reprinted in Scientific American:

"France, one of the world’s leaders in nuclear energy production, plans to draw down nuclear’s share of electricity generation from 75 to 50 percent by 2025—giving itself a 10-year time frame equivalent to the complete shutdown now ongoing in Germany."

The article concludes:

“Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come,” said Jedliczka [of the environmental advocacy group Négawatt Society], quoting Victor Hugo. “In the medium to long term, I am very optimistic that PV—both small and large—and wind will develop on their own without public support,” he said.

“Even in France,” he added, “where the opposition has proven itself adept at inventing, testing and improving all kinds of pitfalls for postponing the development of renewables technologies.”


New French EPR in Finland now estimated to come in nine years overdue

As reported by NucNet, the Finnish nuclear utility TVO has revealed its latest estimate for grid connection of its Olkiluoto-3 reactor in Finland: 2018. That's nine years late, a major part of the reason that the original price tag has also soared. The new reactor is a French Areva EPR (European Pressurized Water Reactor).