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Global nuclear market affected by France’s safety problems: many French reactors offline

plants-downFrance’s Nuclear Storm: Many Power Plants Down Due to Quality Concerns, Power, 11/01/2016 | Lee Buchsbaum  The discovery of widespread carbon segregation problems in critical nuclear plant components has crippled the French power industry—20 of the country’s 58 reactors are currently offline and under heavy scrutiny. France’s nuclear safety chairman said more anomalies “will likely be found,” as the extent of the contagion is still being uncovered.With over half of France’s 58 reactors possibly affected by “carbon segregation,” the nation’s nuclear watchdog, the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN) has ordered that preventative measures be taken immediately to ensure public safety. As this story goes into production in late October, ASN has confirmed that 20 reactors are currently offline and potentially more will shut down in coming weeks.

The massive outages are draining power from all over Europe. Worse, new questions continue to swirl about both the safety and integrity of Électricité de France SA’s (EDF’s) nuclear fleet, as well as the quality of some French- and Japanese-made components that EDF is using in various high-profile nuclear projects around the world……….

Questionable Materials and Documentation

At the heart of France’s nuclear crisis are two problems. One concerns the carbon content of critical steel parts, steam heat exchangers, and other components manufactured or supplied by AREVA SA, the French state-owned nuclear engineering firm and global producer of nuclear reactors. The second problem concerns forged, falsified, or incomplete quality control reports about the critical components themselves.

Excessive levels of carbon in the steel parts could make them more brittle and subject to sudden fracture or tearing under sustained high pressure, which is obviously unacceptable. Initially discovered at the troubled 1.65-GW Flamanville 3 project (Figure 1) in 2014—one of the first in the vaunted European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) nuclear plant series that EDF also plans to use at the newly approved Hinkley Point C plant in England—more flaws have since been discovered throughout the existing nuclear fleet.

An internal probe of the forge at Le Creusot (Figure 2), where many of the components in question were created, has uncovered new anomalies. According to an October Bloomberg report, AREVA is now reviewing all 9,000 manufacturing records at the forge dating back as far as 1943, including files from more than 6,000 nuclear components.

Though there have been questions raised since anomalies were discovered at Flamanville in 2014, during the past six months—and accelerating this fall—almost weekly revelations have resulted in plant shutdowns, extended outages, reduced generation, and lots of questions. Following parliamentary hearings on October 25, resulting in a wider probe and likely more plant shutdowns, on October 27, ASN confirmed with POWER that the scope of the problem appears to be expanding.

According to an ASN press relation’s officer, who requested anonymity in line with ASN rules, there are now a significant number of reactors offline, with more to be inspected in the next few weeks. “We are now finding carbon segregation problems from components coming from both Le Creusot and [the Kitakyushu-based Japan Casting & Forging Corp.] JCFC plant. As for now, there [are] 20 EDF reactors offline,” the official said, noting that the number will fluctuate as inspections take place………

On October 25, Reuters reported that EDF and ASN had delayed the restart of Civaux 2, Dampiere 3, and Gravelines 2 NPPs. In addition, it said there had been more irregularities detected at Gravelines 5.

Though the problem has worsened in recent weeks, upon receiving EDF’s early preliminary safety assessments in June, ASN immediately deemed that 12 NPPs were at risk and ordered that those plants be operated under strict precautionary conditions. Unsatisfied, in October ASN ordered EDF to shut down all of the 12 affected NPPs until tests could be completed and, potentially, components fixed or replaced. According to ASN, because these components are essential for safety, “the quality of their design, manufacture, and in-service monitoring is therefore extremely important.”

The analyses performed by EDF thus far have found that since 2015 certain channel heads of the steam generators manufactured by Le Creusot and JCFC “contain a significant carbon concentration zone which could lead to lower than expected mechanical properties,” according to an ASN report. These steam generators equip 18 reactors in the 900-MW and 1,450-MW plant designs. Of these reactors, 12 are equipped with high-carbon channel heads. According to The Japan Times, the JCFC is now also under scrutiny by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority as each of the JCFC supplied plants have become part of the probe and may eventually prove to be the most affected.

Effects Felt Worldwide……. state-owned EDF has built and maintained reactors throughout the world. Today, it is involved in major projects in China, Finland, Belgium, and the UK. Though no evidence has yet surfaced publicly, its not illogical to think that because the common sources of these components, and thus the common sources for their problems—Le Creusot and JCFC—have supplied or are supplying parts to facilities worldwide, the carbon segregation problems could well spread beyond France.

For NPPs now under construction by EDF, either Le Creusot or JCFC forged some of the casings almost a decade ago; it would be very costly and time-consuming to replace them. Pierre-Franck Chevet (Figure 3), head of the ASN, said that a similar AREVA forging technique had been used for five other EPRs planned or being built. Two of these are in Taishan, China, and two are set for Hinkley Point C. Components have also been manufactured for one planned EPR at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland.

Going further, ASN has also indicated that in the nuclear components supply chain, three examples of Counterfeit, Fraudulent and Substandard Items (CFSIs) surfaced in 2015. No word yet if more CFSIs have been found since, or who was responsible. But with inspectors now fanning out across the French nuclear fleet, it’s likely that there will be more revelations to come………


November 2, 2016 - Posted by | France, safety


  1. […] Pero no hay que irse a situaciones tan complejas, hasta problemas tan simples como por ejemplo el mantenimiento en una valvula producen fugas de radioactividad: “…A consecuencia de la falta de mantenimiento en válvulas de seguridad en el reactor de la Central Nuclear de Laguna (Espania) ha generado que constantemente se estén registrando fugas que pone en riesgo a la población de zonas aledañas, aseguró Bernardo Salas Mar, físico matemático de la Facultad de Ciencias de la UNAM. “Son como 30 NER (Notificación Evento Reportable)”, entre los que se encuentran 15 “emisiones al ambiente e improductividad”, dijo el también ex trabajador de Laguna Verde.”No es la primera vez que se descubren falsos controles de calidad, en Francia aparecieron varios casos en los ultimos anios: ” Se descubren informes de control de calidad falsos, falsificados o incompletos sobre componentes criticos del reactor. La ASN también ha indicado que en la cadena de suministro de componentes nucleares aparecieron tres ejemplos de artículos falsificados, fraudulentos y subestándar (CFSI) en 2015…”. “…El descubrimiento de problemas generalizados de segregación de carbono en componentes críticos de plantas nucleares ha perjudicado a la industria de energía francesa -20 de los 58 reactores del país están bajo un escrutinio intenso. El presidente de la seguridad nuclear de Francia dijo que más anomalías “probablemente se encontrarán”, ya que el alcance del contagio sigue siendo descubierto. Con más de la mitad de los 58 reactores de Francia posiblemente afectados por la “segregación de carbono”, la Autoridad de Sustentación Nucléaire (ASN) ha ordenado que se tomen inmediatamente medidas preventivas para garantizar la seguridad pública. A medida que esta historia entre en producción a finales de octubre, la ASN ha confirmado que 20 reactores están actualmente sin conexión y potencialmente más se cerrará en las próximas semanas…”… […]

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