U.S. reactors at risk: French regulator says Creusot Forge “ill-equipped” to make nuke components where safety-related "errors are made"
Following an international inspection tour of France’s Areva-Creusot Forge led by the country’s top reactor safety agency (ASN), the head of the agency’s nuclear equipment division declared, “The tools at its disposal are not adequate to manufacture such huge components. In such a situation, errors are made." Seventeen U.S. reactors are known to have received and installed Creusot components including reactor pressure vessels, replacement pressure vessel heads, steam generators and pressurizers. All of these components make up critical safety systems for the reactor pressure-coolant boundary. The Creusot Forge failed to adequately document that its manufacturing process was in control of the introduction of carbon anomalies which left unchecked will weaken the finished components to cracking, embrittlement and rapid tearing under operational conditions. The “carbon macro-segregation” defect is identified in the Creusot-manufactured reactor pressure vessel installed at the Flamanville Unit 3 nuclear construction project in France.
The ASN announcement came only days after Beyond Nuclear appeared before the U.S. counterpart, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Petition Review Board calling for emergency enforcement action at the U.S. reactors that have installed at-risk components manufactured at the Creusot Forge. The Creusot Forge, now owned by Areva, is under international investigation for manufacturing substandard safety-related components and then covering up their mistakes by falsifying quality assurance documentation. The NRC maintains that the safety of U.S. reactors or the reliability of their installed Creusot components are not in question. However, Beyond Nuclear and co-petitioners are pressing for U.S. reactors with at-risk components to be shut down for inspection and material testing of the carbon anomaly in the installed components. Alternatively, the petitioners have requested that the inspections and testing be required at the reactors’ next regularly scheduled outage. The Virginia-based Dominion Energy has scheduled the requested inspection and material testing of the Creusot-manufactured pressurized installed in the Millstone Unit 2 reactor in Waterford, CT during the upcoming Spring 2017 refueling outage. Beyond Nuclear continues to pursue the NRC to require independent inspections and material testing of Creusot components in the 16 other at-risk units.