Press Release - 8th April 2011

French Nuclear Safety Authority says proposed Hinkley C reactor design is “very compromised”

The Stop Hinkley campaign today expressed concern at warnings from the French Nuclear Safety Authority, ASN, about the dangers of the Hinkley C reactor design.

ASN President Andre-Claude Lacoste told the French media that he “could not rule out” a moratorium on the third generation European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) nuclear reactor under construction at Flamanville in Normandy, northern France.

“If the question of a moratorium is raised, and we have raised it, then it will be on the construction of Flamanville 3,” he said. The reactor is costing over €5 billion to build and has run into delays and cost over-runs. Lacoste said the reactor, whose engineering works were led by the French electricity giant EDF, was “very compromised.”

ASN has put in place several new security regulations covering the Flamanville site, which is scheduled to reopen shortly following a partial closure in the wake of a fatal accident in January 2011.

“We are very concerned at the doubts cast by the French nuclear safety regulator on the integrity of construction at the Flamanville site,” said Stop Hinkley spokesman Crispin Aubrey. “This adds further support to our demand, especially after the disaster at Fukushima in Japan , that the Hinkley C project should be cancelled.”

As far as France 's second proposed EPR reactor – scheduled to be built at Penly - is concerned, Thomas Houdre, who heads the agency's operations in Normandy , cast doubt on whether this project would ever get off the ground.

Despite attempts by Areva, manufacturers of the EPR, to brush aside the ASN statements as “nothing extraordinary”, the company's shares were suspended from trading following the remarks.

ASN has meanwhile warned EDF that it needed to “seriously” improve the maintenance of the 58 reactors it already runs in France . Lacoste said an audit of the safety of all French reactors was under way and a report would be available by the end of the year. Presenting his Regulator's Report to parliament, the ASN chief said that EDF needed to "better anticipate a certain number of maintenance operations and the replacement of components”.

Trade union members at several French nuclear plants have been pointing out for some time that safety has been compromised because of cost cutting and the increased outsourcing of maintenance work.

Leaked documents from EDF have revealed that engineers working on the EPR feared "the possibility” of a “Chernobyl style” meltdown because both the materials and workmanship were substandard.

The Financial Times has reported that last year EDF discovered “anomalies” affecting dozens of its reactors, including corrosion on parts of the steam generators within its older nuclear plants. “EDF replaced the parts and asked permission to continue operating some reactors, despite a deterioration in conditions. This request had been refused,” the French safety regulator said.

For more information: Katy Attwater, Deputy Press Officer






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