« Generic pipe degradation in reactor safety systems in France spells more economic trouble for EdF and maybe for U.S. reactors | Main | Coverup at French Nuclear Supplier Sparks Global Review »

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.