mardi 22 novembre 2016

Commissioning Flamanville EPR in 2018? Really? Yes, answers EDF

From "Les Échos", November 15th, written by Véronique Le Billon

The French power operator grants that Flamanville reactor tank will abide by regulatory standards and that the EPR shall be commissioned in late 2018. Moreover, the company forecasts a €5 billion cost-reduction for its own reactor models.
On site, the visitor smells warm iron of welded metal, sees scaffolds still congesting the machine room and meets some 4,300 staff of EDF and contractors working in the maze of hallways and stairs, but now, the site really looks like a nuclear power plant. EDF expresses its confidence to be able to commission the reactor in late 2018, during a visit on Flamanville construction site on Wednesday, following its CEO’s pledge made in September 2015, whereas the project has recorded several overcosts and delays.

The program is challenging but realistic.

« We consider that the project is back on track. The program is quite challenging but realistic and we will stick to the next scheduled steps », said Xavier Ursat, who is the group executive director in charge of new nuclear projects. The first assembly trials of the reactor are scheduled before the end of 2017 first quarter, confirmed EDF. The last assemblies and completion shall last until the end of next year, outlined Bertrand Michoud, who has just been appointed manager of the « FA3 » project. Launched in 2007, the reactor should have been first commissioned in 2012.

« Fit for service »

The public power operator displays the same confidence about the compliance of the EPR tank, though an excessive carbon concentration, detected in the lid and in the bottom of the tank in late 2014. EDF and Areva have launched trials on three representative parts of the tank, which shall last in a ten days’ time. « We have already got nearly 90% of the results, and all these figures comply with the standards requested by the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN, French acronym). And the 10% left are made in areas where the carbon concentration is much smaller», said Laurent Thieffry, project manager of Flamanville 3. « Thus, we are very confident in the fact that the tank shall be deemed fit for service ».
Following the « defects » found in the production files on the Areva plant of Le Creusot (Saône-et-Loire), EDF is waiting also the results of an audit made by Areva on 93 parts ; this audit shall be concluded in late December. As for Fessenheim 2, the NSA has already requested controls on the resistance of a steam generator, whose data production have been forged. The investigation will last six months, but, on that point also, EDF shows confidence.
Finally, the power operator is waiting the three-year extension of the decree of authorisation to create the nuclear facility, which shall normally expiry next spring.

Taishan site in China

Last week, EDF CEO, Jean-Bernard Levy, visited Taishan site, in China, where EDF shall be  joint operator of two EPRs together with CGN, its Chinese partner (with a 30% stake for EDF). Taishan 1 shall be the first EPR in service in the world, unless a particular event happens. The trials in conditions of pressure and temperature (known as « warm trials ») have just begun. Charging fuel is expected before the end of 2017 first semester, before the operating commissioning (functioning at full power), some months later. Taishan 2 shall be commissioned six months to one year later.
Wednesday, beyond the Flamanville 3 project agenda, EDF confirmed also that the revised budget won’t change, namely « at maximum €10,5 billion ». At the beginning of the project, the budget amounted to €3,3 billion.


A new variant of EPR

EDF is working on the design of an optimized version of the EPR, which may result in a cost reduction of €5 billion of its EPR NM (EPR new model), compared with the cost of Flamanville EPR for the same power (1,650MWh). Among the different possible options, which are not yet decided according to Xavier Ursat, there are : the choice of a simple containment building around the reactor building, and three instead of four « safety trains », which are safety devices allowing the reactor safety by redundancy. Discussions are already scheduled with the NSA.
In operating conditions, 420 staff will work on Flamanville 3 beside the two other reactors. The operating room (control-command) has already been transferred to the operator.


Olkiluoto site in Finland

In Olkiluoto, far from Flamanville and EDF’ confidence, TVO, the Finnish partner, shows deep worries about the end of the EPR construction, built with Areva. The project started in 2005, but, the years coming by, it has become an industrial quagmire for the French group, torn apart between delays and overcosts.
TVO worries about the consequences of the French nuclear sector restructuration, according which EDF shall buy Areva’s reactor division (known as Areva NP), but with the exception of OL3, the Finnish EPR project. « TVO is really aware that the future Areva SA won’t have the necessary financial resources to conclude the project », hammered a spokeman on Wednesday. The (Finnish) group « considers that separating the ownership of the agreement from the necessary resources to finish and to commission the OL3 EPR is not a fair behaviour from the part of a nuclear technologies manufacturer ».