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. Please visit Beyond Nuclear International for current coverage of nuclear France.



Generic pipe degradation in reactor safety systems in France spells more economic trouble for EdF and maybe for U.S. reactors 

On October 11, 2017, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) issued an alert to the country’s nuclear industry for generically “degraded” pipes in critical pumping stations at twenty of Électricité de France’s (EdF) 58 atomic reactors. EdF is Europe’s largest builder and operator of nuclear power generators. That number has risen with the discovery of significant pipe corrosion “deviations"in nine more French nuclear power plants. The severely corroded pipes could potentially rupture in the event of an earthquake that the plant was originally designed to withstand but now might result in a complete or partial loss of reactor safety system cooling. The corrosion has also severely thinned the walls of pipes that supply water for the reactor sites' firefighting systems.

EdF is shutting down the country’s reactors to undergo “reinforcement” with carbon fiber wraps around the degraded pipes rather than the costly pipe replacement for the French state-owned utility already deep in debt. Nine of the 20 reactor units have completed the reinforcement of reactor cooling and firefighting pipe systems. Five more units are currently shut down where reinforcement repair is in progress. EdF reports that six units have applied the carbon fiber wrap around one of the two redundant cooling and firefighting pipe systems to reduce operational risks while work is underway on the backup piping systems.  

The finding of generic corrosion in French pressurized water reactor cooling and firefighting piping systems raises questions about those same systems in U.S. pressurized water reactors.  France’s nuclear fleet was rapidly ramped up based on the U.S. Westinghouse pressurized water reactor design initially for its Bugey and Fessenheim nuclear power stations. The fact that generic designs spawn generic problems now raises Beyond Nuclear concern that an investigation of the vulnerability to the same generic corrosion event in the U.S. Westinghouse design for pressurized water reactors is necessary.


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).