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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

France’s desperate move to save nuclear company AREVA

AREVA crumblingflag-franceFrance to buy out Areva shareholders in bid for nuclear fix, http://www.livemint.com/Companies/P2boy0yfvo71EzmyG4zx8O/France-to-buy-out-Areva-shareholders-in-bid-for-nuclear-fix.html Geert De Clercq

France, which owns 87% of Areva, said it would offer €4.5 per Areva SA share to minority investors which include Kuwait’s investment fund and French energy group Total Paris: France will buy out minority shareholders in Areva and delist the troubled nuclear group, the government said on Wednesday as talks with potential investors in a new nuclear fuel company being spun out of Areva neared a conclusion.

The state, which owns 87% of Areva, said it would offer €4.5 per Areva SA share to minority investors which include Kuwait’s investment fund, French utility EDF and French energy group Total.

Areva’s shares have fallen by as much as 90% from their 2007 highs as the group chalked up repeated losses. The stock was suspended on Tuesday at €5.2.

European Union (EU) antitrust regulators approved the French government’s plan to inject €4.5 billion ($4.8 billion) into Areva on Tuesday, saying the rescue would not unduly distort competition.

The ruling will allow Areva, whose capital has been wiped out by years of losses, to restart as a smaller firm focused on uranium mining and nuclear fuel production and recycling.

Legacy Areva SA—the firm left over after this split and the sale of Areva’s reactor unit to state-controlled EDF—will get a €2 billion capital increase and will hold the liabilities related to the troubled Olkiluoto 3 project in Finland, which has been hit by delays.

Areva said negotiations with unspecified investors in the new company were being finalised. It said last month that two investors have made a €500 million ($526.40 million) offer for a combined 10% stake in the new entity.

Paris: France will buy out minority shareholders in Areva and delist the troubled nuclear group, the government said on Wednesday as talks with potential investors in a new nuclear fuel company being spun out of Areva neared a conclusion.

The state, which owns 87% of Areva, said it would offer €4.5 per Areva SA share to minority investors which include Kuwait’s investment fund, French utility EDF and French energy group Total.

Areva’s shares have fallen by as much as 90% from their 2007 highs as the group chalked up repeated losses. The stock was suspended on Tuesday at €5.2.

European Union (EU) antitrust regulators approved the French government’s plan to inject €4.5 billion ($4.8 billion) into Areva on Tuesday, saying the rescue would not unduly distort competition.

The ruling will allow Areva, whose capital has been wiped out by years of losses, to restart as a smaller firm focused on uranium mining and nuclear fuel production and recycling.

Legacy Areva SA—the firm left over after this split and the sale of Areva’s reactor unit to state-controlled EDF—will get a €2 billion capital increase and will hold the liabilities related to the troubled Olkiluoto 3 project in Finland, which has been hit by delays.

Areva said negotiations with unspecified investors in the new company were being finalised. It said last month that two investors have made a €500 million ($526.40 million) offer for a combined 10% stake in the new entity.

A person familiar with the situation said the two investors are Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and JNFL. Talks are continuing with China’s National Nuclear Corporation about also taking a minority stake.

“These talks are continuing and focus on governance issues, and on the issue of the balance between the different third-party investor parties,” French industry minister Christophe Sirugue told Reuters in an interview.

Sirugue, who said he had discussed the governance issue with Chinese vice-premier Ma Kai during his visit to France in November, added that the make-up of the board of the new company is another important issue in the talks. Reuters

January 13, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment

France’s nuclear company AREVA in a state of collapse – taxpayers to the rescue!

Hollande-salesFrance ready to save nuclear group Areva, regardless of election outcome, Globe and Mail, GEERT DE CLERCQ, PARIS — Reuters, Jan. 04, 2017 A government-led rescue of French nuclear group Areva and the wider atomic-energy industry may cost the state as much as €10-billion ($13.94-billion Canadian), but political support is almost certain whoever wins the presidential election in May.

 

January 6, 2017 Posted by | France, politics | Leave a comment

Further French inquiry in AREVA’s nuclear manufacturing scandal – could affect UK’s Hinkley Point project

truthflag-franceFrench watchdog deepens probes into Areva nuclear parts Concerns about quality and documentation could have knock-on effect on Hinkley Point Rt.com JANUARY 4, 2017 by:  in Paris

Investigators are widening probes into potentially faulty nuclear reactor components made at a factory operated by Areva, the struggling French manufacturer, after the problems contributed to multiple shutdowns of power plants last year.

Julien Collet, deputy director of the ASN, France’s nuclear regulator, said he wanted to “go much further” with investigations into Areva’s components, including one probe into the falsification of documents that certified the quality of certain parts.

Separately, the ASN is expected to issue a report this year about issues with components made by Areva for a new nuclear power plant at Flamanville in France. The report’s findings could have an impact on the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in the UK, which is due to use the same technology as Flamanville.

 The ASN is leading investigations into two scandals relating to Areva’s supply of components for France’s existing nuclear power stations.

First, French investigators said in June that some steel components made at Areva’s Le Creusot factory — notably parts used in steam generators — had excessive carbon levels, which could make them vulnerable to cracking.

Second, Areva announced in May that it had found evidence suggesting employees had doctored quality-assurance documents relating to many different nuclear reactor components made at Le Creusot for up to 40 years.

Both affairs have contributed to French nuclear power plants run by EDF, the utility, being shut down last year………

Overseas regulators are monitoring events in France. David McIntyre of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it was concerned by the revelations about doctored documents at Le Creusot, which has supplied some components to US nuclear power plants……..

Beyond Areva’s potentially faulty components in France’s existing nuclear power stations, there is another — potentially even larger — issue looming.

In 2014, the reactor vessel at the planned new nuclear power plant at Flamanville — which was made at Areva’s factory in Chalon/Saint-Marcel — was found to have potentially critical structural weaknesses as a result of excessive carbon levels……….

Any significant problems with the vessel could be catastrophic for EDF, as redoing this important piece of the plant would mean restarting much of the construction work, which is already billions of euros over budget and years late.

“If the reactor vessel is deemed faulty, it would be a disaster,” said Denis Florin, founder of Lavoisier Conseil, a consultancy.

Flamanville is a flagship project for EDF, using European Pressurised Reactor technology that is also earmarked for the Hinkley Point C power plant in the UK.

Any further delays at Flamanville could pose problems for Hinkley. This is partly because the financial support package the UK government has offered for Hinkley is premised on Flamanville being operational by 2020.

If Flamanville’s reactor vessel is found to be flawed, it could push back the completion date — currently scheduled for the end of 2018 — beyond 2020.

EDF has said it does not plan to use the UK financial support package, as it is financing the project from its own balance sheet, but this could still rob the company of room for manoeuvre should Hinkley face problems.

Additional reporting by Kana Inagaki in Tokyo https://www.ft.com/content/2baf6270-c36a-11e6-81c2-f57d90f6741a

January 6, 2017 Posted by | France, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

State Repression Against Greenpeace Antinuclear French Activist Yannick Rousselet

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Ouch … the incredible Yannick Rousselet, the campaigner at Greenpeace against Nukes, Yannick Rousselet, whose ideas and actions of genius are no longer counted, is now a government target.

As everywhere, the state/establishment when under pressure resorts to authoritarianism and force. In France, Greenpeace anti-nuclear activist,Yannick Rousselet, has had his house raided in the early hours of the morning…with the police pulling up outside in their black vans and taking photos (including family photos), computers, USBs, files etc. on the basis that Yannick has been threatening state defence secrets.

It’s what happens when your campaigns are successful enough to threaten the state

By Yannick Rousselet:

A few days ago, I informed you that I had been the victim of an act of “malevolence”. In fact, it was practiced by a state service, DGSI (Directorate General of Internal Security, the former DST).

Indeed, last Tuesday morning, these “good people” parked their black sedans in front of my home, donned their “police” armbands and came to search my family home.

They took all our digital media: phones, computers, internal and external hard drives, USB flash drives, SD cards. In this seizure, files related to our militant activities, but also all our photos and videos of families.

This is an investigation for “compromise of defense secrecy”, the initiative of which would come from the HFDS (Senior Defense and Security Official) and General Riac (National Nuclear Security Officer).

It is the Paris public prosecutor who is in charge of this investigation. They told me that I would be summoned for a police custody soon.”

December 19, 2016 Posted by | France | , , | 1 Comment

French Nuclear Industry in Chaos

plants-downNuClear News No 91, Jan 2017  On 14th December some thirty Greenpeace activists blocked the EDF headquarters in Paris to denounce the financial scandal and technical bankruptcy of the Company. They hung a banner on the front of the HQ building which declared that EDF has a debt of 74 billion euros, but because of nuclear power, this figure will rise even higher. (1)

As we reported last month Greenpeace commissioned an audit by AlphaValue, the equity research company. The report indicated that EDF grossly underestimates the cost of nuclear electricity. If it disclosed the true cost of running its fleet of reactors in France while financing two new ones in the UK, it would be declared bankrupt. (2) (3)

France is set to have its usual nuclear power capacity almost completely restored by midJanuary, after a number of plants come back online following inspections. Only 4 out of 58 nuclear power plants will be offline by the middle of January, so worries about shortages have eased. EDF has confirmed that seven nuclear reactors shut down for safety checks would be up and running again by the end of December and there should be no problem with power supplies this winter.

Grid operator RTE said that three of the seven reactors offline – Gravelines 2, Dampierre 3 and Tricastin 3 – would resume production from December 20th and that four more would restart before December 31st. The seven reactors are among 12 that have been slated for inspections under orders from the nuclear regulator ASN following the discovery of high carbon concentrations, which could weaken their steel. (4)

EDF has asked ASN if it can postpone the outage of the 1.5-GW Civaux-1 and the 900-MW Tricastin-2 reactors to March and February respectively. The Civaux-1 and Tricastin-2 reactors are currently both due to go offline December 23 and return on January 15. (5)

While this particular crisis may appear to have an end in sight, the French industry’s problems are now moving overseas. Manufacturing problems and forged paperwork as identified at Le Creusot are rare in the nuclear industry, where strict adherence to production and operating rules are supposed to be a crucial buffer against nuclear accidents. Independent nuclear energy consultant Mycle Schneider says “Having worked for over 30 years in France, I did not think this was possible for this country, [but it is] likely we have seen only the tip of the iceberg.”

Inspectors from the U.S. China and four other countries are investigating the decades-long cover up of the manufacturing problems at Le Creusot to see whether flaws represent a safety threat to their reactors. After investigators discovered files suggesting Le Creusot employees had concealed for decades manufacturing problems involving hundreds of components sold to customers around the world, the French regulator, ASN, ordered Areva to check 6,000 manufacturing files by hand, covering every nuclear part made at Le Creusot since the 1960s. Finnish inspectors visiting Le Creusot said they learned of potential flaws in a component slated for the reactor at Olkiluoto. In the U.S., the NRC has identified at least nine nuclear plants that use large components from Le Creusot.

“I’m concerned that there keep being more and more problems unveiled,” said Kerri Kavanagh, who leads the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s unit inspecting Le Creusot. Regulators are considering returning to Le Creusot or inspecting Areva’s Lynchburg, Va., offices to deepen their probe of the plant, a U.S. official said.http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo91.pdf

December 17, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, France | Leave a comment

Financially strapped French company AREVA gets a lifeline. EDF in dire financial straits, too.

AREVA EDF crumblingAreva receives offer for 10% stake in spun-off nuclear unit , Ft.com, 15 Dec 16
Deal would help recapitalise troubled French group 
Areva, the struggling French nuclear group, received a firm €500m offer for a 10 per cent stake in a new nuclear fuel company that will be split off from its parent in a wider reshaping of the French nuclear industry.

Areva is preparing to split off its uranium mining and nuclear fuel activities into NewCo as part of a government-backed rescue after the group was forced to the brink of collapse under the weight of its own debt this year.

Earlier this year it was agreed that the other half of Areva, the troubled reactor business, would be taken over by EDF, the larger French nuclear group, in a deal that values that part of the business at about €2.5bn.

 On Thursday evening the company said it had received a firm offer for 10 per cent of the new company.The deal, if it goes ahead, will go another step towards recapitalising Areva. This will all come on top of a state-backed capital raising planned for early next year……..

EDF, the other major company in the sector, lost more than a tenth of its stock market value on Thursday after it warned of lower 2017 earnings becasue of an expected drop in power prices…….

Shares in EDF were down 12 per cent on Thursday. The stock has fallen 23 per cent over the past year after repeated warnings of weak profits. https://www.ft.com/content/4a1d5af6-c319-11e6-9bca-2b93a6856354

December 16, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, France | Leave a comment

Global review of nuclear reactors, following news of cover-up of AREVA’s manufacturing flaws

secret-agent-Smareva-medusa1Coverup at French Nuclear Supplier Sparks Global Review Inspectors say Areva unit’s files suggest manufacturing flaws in critical parts were covered up for decades, WSJ,  By MATTHEW DALTON and INTI LANDAURO in Paris and REBECCA SMITH in San Francisco, Dec. 13, 2016

Inspectors from the U.S. and other countries are investigating a decadeslong coverup of manufacturing problems at a key supplier to the nuclear power industry, probing whether flaws introduced in a French factory represent a safety threat to reactors world-wide.

Inspectors from the U.S., China and four other nations visited ArevaSA’s Le Creusot Forge in central France earlier this month to examine the plant’s quality controls and comb through its internal records.

A string of discoveries triggered the newly expanded review: First, French investigators said they found steel components made at Le Creusot and used in nuclear-power plants across France had excess carbon levels, making them more vulnerable to rupture. Then, the investigators discovered files suggesting Le Creusot employees for decades had concealed manufacturing problems involving hundreds of components sold to customers around the world.

The disclosure of flaws covered up by Le Creusot led to two reactor shutdowns this summer in France, and in September authorities ordered Areva to check 6,000 manufacturing files by hand, covering every nuclear part made at Le Creusot since the 1960s.

“I’m concerned that there keep being more and more problems unveiled,” said Kerri Kavanagh, who leads the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s unit inspecting Le Creusot. Regulators are considering returning to Le Creusot or inspecting Areva’s Lynchburg, Va., offices to deepen their probe of the plant, a U.S. official said.

On Wednesday, Paris prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation into whether Le Creusot’s activities were fraudulent and dangerous, according to a spokeswoman for prosecutors.

“What we see now at Le Creusot is clearly unacceptable,” said Julien Collet, assistant general manager at France’s Nuclear Safety Authority.

Areva executives have acknowledged the records falsifications and blamed them on a breakdown of manufacturing controls spanning many decades at Le Creusot. Areva has since tightened its controls and is cooperating with the regulators’ reviews, company officials said…….

Beyond France, regulators are trying to determine whether other nuclear facilities that relied on components from Le Creusot are safe. Finnish inspectors visiting the forge last week said they learned of potential flaws in a component slated for a reactor in the southwestern island of Olkiluoto. In the U.S., the NRC has identified at least nine nuclear plants that use large components from Le Creusot……..

Last week’s inspection has turned up a concern with one of Areva’s next-generation reactors, the European Pressurized Reactor under construction in Finland, versions of which are also planned for plants in China, France and the U.K…….http://www.wsj.com/articles/problems-at-nuclear-components-supplier-spark-global-reviews-1481625005

December 14, 2016 Posted by | France, safety, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Nuclear worker convicted of terrorism conspiracy – had worked for 3 years while under investigation!

exclamation-Smflag-franceFrench Nuclear Plant Technician Continued Working While Under Investigation For Terrorism, BuzzFeed News, 14 Dec 16,  Paris Rida E. was put under investigation for suspected ties to terrorist groups in Syria, but that didn’t prevent him from working for several months at a nuclear power plant.

The 31-year-old technician, referred to in court proceedings as Rida E., was permitted to access nuclear plants for several months while he was being investigated by French authorities for suspected ties to terrorist groups in Syria. He was convicted on Dec. 7 of conspiring to commit acts of terrorism……https://www.buzzfeed.com/paulaveline/rida-e-employee-of-the-tricastin-and-devoted-def?utm_term=.xtWZDAWkLe#.fnNAdXYxOD

 

December 14, 2016 Posted by | France, incidents | Leave a comment

EDF’s financial crisis will leave french taxpayers with a huge nuclear bill

AREVA EDF crumblingFrench taxpayers face huge nuclear bill as EDF financial crisis deepens, Ecologist, Paul Brown 8th December 2016 
Nuclear giant EDF could be heading towards bankruptcy, writes Paul Brown, as it faces a perfect storm of under-estimated costs for decommissioning, waste disposal and Hinkley C. Meanwhile income from power sales is lagging behind costs, and 17 of its reactors are off-line for safety tests. Yet French and UK governments are turning a blind eye to the looming financial crisis.

The liabilities of Électricité de France (EDF) – the biggest electricity supplier in Europe, with 39 million customers – are increasing so fast that they will soon exceed its assets, according a report by an independent equity research company,

Bankruptcy for EDF seems inevitable – and if such a vast empire in any other line of business seemed to be in such serious financial trouble, there would be near-panic in the workforce and in governments at the subsequent political fall-out.

But it seems that the nuclear-dominated EDF group is considered too big to be allowed to fail. So, to keep the lights on in western Europe, the company will have to be bailed out by the taxpayers of France and the UK.

The French government, facing elections next spring, and the British, struggling with the implications of the Brexit vote to leave the European Union, are currently turning a blind eye to the report by AlphaValue that EDF has badly under-reported its potential liabilities.

Ageing nuclear reactors

While EDF is threatening to sue people who say it is technically bankrupt, the evidence is that the cost of producing electricity from its ageing nuclear reactors is greater than the market price.

Coupled with the impossibility of EDF paying the full decommissioning costs of its reactors, it is inevitable that it is the taxpayers in France and the UK who will eventually pick up the bill. However this will not be easy due to the EU’s ‘state aid’ rules, which limit governments’ ability to support ailing companies.

There is also the ongoing thorny problem of disposing of the nuclear waste and spent fuel rods, which are building up in cooling ponds and stores on both sides of the Channel, with no disposal route yet in sight.

A looming problem for EDF, which already admits is has €37 billion of debt, is that 17 of its ageing fleet of nuclear reactors, which provide 70% of France’s electricity, are being retired.

According to AlphaValue, EDF has underestimated the liabilities for decommissioning these reactors by €20 billion. Another €33.5 billion should be added to cost of handling nuclear waste, the report says. Juan Camilo Rodriguez, an equity analyst who is the author of the report, says that a correct adjustment of nuclear provisions would lead to the technical bankruptcy of the company.

In a statement, EDF said it “strongly contests the alleged accounting and financial analyses by the firm AlphaValue carried out at the request of Greenpeace and relating to the situation of EDF”.

It says that its accounts are audited and certified by its statutory auditors, and that the dismantling costs of EDF’s existing nuclear power fleet have also been subject to an audit mandated by the French Ministry of the Environment, Energy and the Sea.

Even with its huge debts, EDF’s problems could be surmounted if the company was making big profits on its electricity sales, but the cost of producing power from its nuclear fleet is frequently greater than the wholesale price.

That creates a second problem – that unless the wholesale price of electricity rises and stays high, the company will make a loss on every kilowatt of electricity it sells. The new rightwing French presidential candidate, François Fillon, promises not to retire French reactors and to keep them going for 60 years. But this cannot be done without more cost.

This is the third problem: vast sums of capital are needed to refurbish EDF’s old nuclear fleet for safety reasons following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. …….

Repeated life extensions

Since the sale of UK nuclear plants to EDF in 2008 at a cost £12.5 billion, the company has continued to operate them, and has repeatedly got life extensions to keep them running.

But this cannot go on forever, and they are expected to start closing in the next ten years. Once this happens, the asset value of each station would become a liability, and EDF’s mountain of debt would get bigger.

So far, the French and UK governments, and the company itself, seem to be in denial about this situation. Currently 17 French reactors are shut down for safety checks, following the discovery of faulty safety-critical compenents including large, difficult to replace steel forgings like steam generators.

The company has issued reassuring statements that they will be back to full power after Christmas, however in so doing EDF is assuming that the safety checks will give the reactors a clean bill of health. In fact, there are three other possible outcomes:

  • additional potentially time-consuming tests are needed that will create further months of downtime.
  • remedial engineering works are required to make the reactors safe. These would probably be costly and time-consuming.
  • key components at the heart of the reactors, for example steam generators, need to be replaced altogether. However this would be so costly that, for a nuclear plant already reaching the end of its lifetime, premature closure would be the only viable option.

Perhaps the most likely outcome is that some of the 17 reactors will fall into each of these four categories, creating as yet unquantifiable unbudgeted costs for the company.

Meanwhile, to make up the shortfall from the closed reactors, electricity is being bought from neighbouring countries, including the UK, to keep the lights on in France. The power shortage is temporarily causing an increase in wholesale prices – but one that EDF is unable to fully exploit because so many of its reactors are not generating.

The future remains unpredictable – but as long as there are no actual power cuts, no action is expected from governments. Despite official denials, however, the calculations of many outside the industry suggest that it is only a matter of time before disaster strikes.

The cost of producing electricity from renewables is still falling, while nuclear gets ever more expensive, and massive liabilities loom. Ultimately, the bill will have to be passed on to the taxpayers. http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988433/french_taxpayers_face_huge_nuclear_bill_as_edf_financial_crisis_deepens.html

 

December 10, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment

France’s new nuclear reactors mired in debt

plants-downFrench taxpayers face huge nuclear bill as EDF financial crisis deepens, Ecologist, Paul Brown 8th December 2016 “………New nuclear stations  Even more money is required to finish new nuclear stations EDF is already committed to building. The first, Flamanville in northern France, is five years late and billions over budget. Questions over the quality of the steel in its reactor are still not resolved, and it may never be fully operational.

Add to that the need for €12 billion (or potentially considerably more) capital to complete the two nuclear stations EDF is committed to building at Hinkley Point in southwest England, and it is hard to see where all the money will come from.

To help the cash-strapped company, its ultimate owner, the French state, has already provided €3 billion in extra capital this year, and decided to forego its shareholder dividend. But that is a drop in the ocean.

Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based independent international consultant on energy and nuclear policy, says: “The French company overvalues its nuclear assets, and underestimates how much it will cost to decommission them.

“However, EDF’s biggest problem is the cost of producing power from these ageing power stations. The cost is greater than the wholesale price, so everything they sell is at a loss. It is impossible to see how they can ever make a profit.”

He says that is not the company’s only problem: France has not dealt with the problem of nuclear waste, and has badly underestimated the cost of doing so: “With German electricity prices going down and production increasing in order to export cheap electricity to France, it is impossible to see how EDF can ever compete. It is really staggering that no one is paying any attention to this.”

Even former EDF director Gérard Magnin agrees. He resigned from the board in July as he thought the Hinkley Point project too risky for the company because of its already stretched finances. Now he says that, with the reactors closed for safety checks, the French nuclear industry faces “its worst situation ever”.

The company’s troubles do not stop in France, as EDF also owns the UK nuclear industry. Ironically, it took over 15 reactors in the UK after British Energy went bankrupt in 2002 because the cost of producing the electricity was greater than the wholesale price – exactly the situation being repeated now in France.http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988433/french_taxpayers_face_huge_nuclear_bill_as_edf_financial_crisis_deepens.html

December 9, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment

Suspected falsifying of documents: French prosecutors investigate Areva’s Le Creusot nuclear foundry

corruptionAREVA crumblingFrench court probes forged documents case at Areva nuclear foundry http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-nuclear-areva-court-idUSKBN13X20C, 8 Dec 16  The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the suspected falsifying of documents at Areva’s Le Creusot foundry that manufactures parts for nuclear reactors, a judicial source said on Thursday.

The case, which alleges forgery, use of forged documents, endangerment of lives and aggravated deception, will be put in the hands of the police, the source said. French nuclear safety regulator ASN said in October that it had asked the courts to step in to investigate after nuclear group Areva sounded the alarm in May over documentation irregularities involving 6,000 nuclear component manufacturing files.

Thousands of such documents used in the French nuclear sector dating back to 1965 are being looked at

“We have not been informed (of the investigation) at this point,” a spokeswoman for Areva told Reuters, adding that the group would cooperate with the investigation and hand over all information at its disposal.

The discovery of weak spots in the reactor vessel of the EPR reactor under construction in Flamanville in 2014 led Areva to review manufacturing procedures at its Creusot steel forging plant.

ASN said in September that Areva had identified 87 irregularities related to reactors operated by state utility EDF, 20 concerning equipment for the Flamanville reactor, and one related to a steam generator for EDF’s 900 MW Gravelines 5 reactor on halt since April.

 Gravelines 5’s restart has been pushed back to June 2017 after an executive told parliament in October that something suspicious had been discovered.   (Reporting by Benjamin Mallet, Chine Labbé and Bate Felix; editing by Richard Balmforth/Mark Heinrich)

December 9, 2016 Posted by | France, Legal | Leave a comment

Mitsubishi Heavy makes huge and risky investment in AREVA nuclear

scrutiny-on-costsAREVA crumblingMitsubishi Heavy faces tough decisions in nuclear power business  Orders dry up at home and abroad after Fukushima disaster, Nikkei Asian Review, 8 Dec 16,  TOKYO –– Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Japan Nuclear Fuel are putting the final touches on a plan to acquire a roughly 10% stake in the troubled French nuclear energy company Areva. But for Mitsubishi Heavy it is an agonizing decision.

The investment would involve spending 40-50 billion yen ($350-438 million), which is an extraordinary amount considering the uncertain future of the nuclear power business. Mitsubishi Heavy has made little headway with exports, highlighted by Vietnam’s recent decision to abandon plans for a pair of nuclear plants. The Japanese company finds itself in a tight spot, pulling with no progress on a rope it cannot release.
In Japan, the Sendai plant operated by Kyushu Electric Power is one of the few domestic nuclear power plants now running. Restarting other plants and making them safer and more quake-resistant are the tasks at hand. But Mitsubishi Heavy has received few hard orders and it is rough going for the manufacturing aspect of its nuclear power business, admitted company President Shunichi Miyanaga.

Facing dim prospects for new domestic orders, both Mitsubishi Heavy and Japan Nuclear Fuel must find other ways to secure enough business to keep their equipment and workforces active.

Back in 2006, Mitsubishi Heavy partnered with Areva to develop a so-called Generation III+ pressurized-water reactor with state-of-the-art technologies. The team has been using the design to compete with the larger, older-generation pressurized-water systems promoted by two other groups: the team of Hitachi and General Electric, and the team of Toshiba and Westinghouse…….

The French government, which owns nearly 90% of Areva, is looking to cut its losses. Unprofitable businesses are being excised from Areva and a new company is being set up that will seek over 30% of its capital from Japan, China, and elsewhere. …

There are lingering worries inside Mitsubishi Heavy about this huge investment in Areva. To alleviate those concerns, Mitsubishi Heavy has voiced confidence that there will be another nuclear renaissance in 20 to 30 years……http://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Deals/Mitsubishi-Heavy-faces-tough-decisions-in-nuclear-power-business

December 9, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, France, Japan, politics international | Leave a comment

France launches investigation of Fessenheim nuclear power plant

France investigating hazardous nuclear plant after Greenpeace call – report  https://www.rt.com/news/369320-france-nuclear-plant-danger/ 6 Dec, 2016  France has reportedly opened an investigation into an activity of its oldest power plant, Fessenheim, after Greenpeace reported that the reactor has numerous abnormalities and is endangering people’s lives.

The investigation was launched by the Paris Prosecutor’s office, AFP reported on Monday evening, citing judicial sources.

The Fessenheim power plant is in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace, eastern France, near the German and Swiss borders.

The plant’s activity is endangering the lives of people and it has equipment which doesn’t fulfill the requirements of safety, according to the AFP report.

READ MORE: France’s nuclear watchdog wants to shut down 5 reactors over failure risk

All these concerns were previously voiced by Greenpeace, which accused AREVA, a group specializing in nuclear power and renewable energy, and Électricité de France (EDF) of inaction.

In October this year, Greenpeace called upon the Paris prosecutor to investigate the abnormalities of both reactors of the plant.

“EDF and AREVA were aware of serious irregularities on Reactor 2 at Fessenheim,” the statement said“The defective part is a steam generator, an essential component of nuclear reactors.” 

The group also called for the immediate shutdown of Reactor 1 of the plant.

Greenpeace also accuses EDF and AREVA of falsifying safety certificates of the plant so that the authorities won’t shut it down.

“EDF, as the operator, has in fact decided to give priority to economic interests instead of protecting people and the environment.”

Fessenheim has recently been the topic of heated discussion, which even took place in the Elysee Palace. In April, President Francois Hollande promised to formally initiate the shutdown of France’s oldest nuclear reactors on the grounds of environmental and safety concerns.

READ MORE: Hollande vows to shut down France’s oldest nuclear power plant

Also in October, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) asked EDF to shut down and inspect the plant. Fessenheim houses two 920 megawatt reactors and has been running since 1978, making it France’s oldest operating nuclear power plant. The German government and activists alike have long been calling for it to be permanently closed.

The plant is situated on a seismic fault line, making it vulnerable to earthquakes and flooding. The German government has repeatedly called on France to terminate the Fessenheim plant as soon as possible, after an April 2014 accident when one of the reactors had to be shut down as water was found leaking from several places.

France has 58 nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 63.2 Gigawatts. The country gets two thirds of its electricity from nuclear energy.

December 7, 2016 Posted by | France, safety | Leave a comment

Electricite de France (EDF) – what a nuclear mess!

AREVA EDF crumblingFrance’s nuclear-energy champion is in turmoil  http://www.economist.com/news/business/21711087-electricit-de-france-has-had-shut-down-18-its-58-nuclear-reactors-frances-nuclear-energy   Electricité de France has had to shut down 18 of its 58 nuclear reactors  THESE are difficult times for Electricité de France (EDF), the country’s quasi-monopolistic electricity provider, serving 88% of homes. Outages at no fewer than 18 of the 58 EDF-owned nuclear reactors that provide three-quarters of France’s electricity have meant a slump in production: the company says annual nuclear output could fall to 378 terawatt hours (TWH), from 417 TWH last year. Eight reactors are currently lying idle and several may not restart for weeks or months. Power stations are burning coal at a rate not seen since the 1980s. As electricity imports and prices soar, officials are having to deny that a cold snap could bring blackouts.

The cause of the crisis—possibly faulty reactor parts throughout EDF’s fleet—suggests it may not be easily contained. France’s nuclear regulator, the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), this summer ordered urgent tests of reactor parts, mostly bases of cylindrical steam generators. Inspectors are worried about high carbon levels found in steel forged by Creusot Forge, which is owned by Areva, another French firm, and by Japan Casting & Forging Corporation, a Japanese supplier. In some pieces carbon deposits are over 50% above permitted levels, risking fracture in case of a sudden change in the temperature of the steel.

The extent of faulty forge work is as yet unknown, as is whether Areva employees falsified data. ASN is clearly surprised that Areva failed to spot the problem. It is now auditing thousands of files stretching back over decades. More faults are likely to emerge, the regulator reckons.
The cost for EDF is rising. As well as lost earnings from shuttered plants, switching one generator (a reactor can have three) can take six months and cost €150m ($159m). And its decision in November finally to stump up €2.5bn for Areva Nuclear Power (most of Areva, including Creusot Forge) now seems rather like paying to swallow a highly radioactive dinner.The two firms have one important joint project: a new European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), built by Areva and mostly run by EDF. Here too, forging faults are a problem: they were first found last year on the installed reactor vessel at Flamanville 3, a new EPR near Cherbourg. Another serious source of concern is safety-valve design.

The regulator will rule on Flamanville’s future in mid-2017. More tests or design changes may mean putting off its opening far beyond 2018.That would also deliver another blow to France’s reputation in nuclear power. The only other EPR in Europe, that at Olkiluoto, Finland, is years overdue and three times over budget.

Delays might also hinder EDF in its plan to build two EPRs at Hinkley Point, in Britain, for £24.5bn ($30.7bn). British loan guarantees need certain conditions to be met, and these reportedly include seeing Flamanville operate by 2020. Steve Thomas, an energy expert in London, concurs with the opinion of many in the nuclear-power industry when he calls the EPR a dud. EDF is pushing on regardless, but the financial strain is mounting. In March, EDF’s then chief financial officer, Thomas Piquemal, quit, calling Hinkley Point unaffordable.

The sense of crisis looks likely to grow. Yves Marignac, a nuclear-energy expert in Paris, calls EDF “already financially crippled”. Only state backing prevents EDF’s credit rating falling steeply, analysts say. And it is not only the ASN that has EDF in its sights. On November 22nd French competition officials raided its offices, seeking evidence that its dominant position is squeezing rivals and sending prices higher than they should be (even though lower electricity prices in recent years have sapped its revenues). Its share price has halved in two years.

The future looks bleak. Some four-fifths of French nuclear plants were built in a decade from the late 1970s. The plants have a 40-year lifespan, meaning that several a year face retirement over the next decade. Energy planners have assumed there will be extensions to 50 years or more. But the ASN may hesitate after the forging problems, or impose higher costs. Cyrille Cormier, a nuclear engineer who is now at Greenpeace, a campaign group that opposes nuclear power, says a total refit could cost EDF an extra €60bn-200bn.

Closing plants permanently would be extremely costly, too. France has never closed a large one. EDF may be under-provisioning the costs of decommissioning plants. It has set aside €36bn, less than the €45bn that Germany has allowed, even though France’s neighbour has a smaller nuclear fleet. Then there is nuclear waste. The five pools storing spent fuel at La Hague, Areva’s central reprocessing plant, are nearly full, says Mr Marignac. When sorrows come, they come in battalions.

December 2, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, France | Leave a comment

France’s nuclear power industry in a bad way – former EDF director

plants-downFrench nuclear power in ‘worst situation ever’, says former EDF director
In the week Britain exports electricity to France for first time in four years, Gérard Magnin says renewable power will match Hinkley Point C on cost,
Guardian, , 29 Nov 16, The French nuclear industry is in its “worst situation ever” because of a spate of plant closures in France and the complexities it faces with the UK’s Hinkley Point C power station, according to a former Électricité de France director.

Gérard Magnin, who called Hinkley “very risky” when he resigned as a board member over the project in July, told the Guardian that with more than a dozen French reactors closed over safety checks and routine maintenance, circumstances for the state-owned EDF had deteriorated since he stepped down.

The closures have seen Britain this week exporting electricity to France for the first time in four years. An industry report on Tuesday also warned that the offline reactors could lead to a “tense situation” for energy supply in France, in the event of a cold snap this winter.

The situation is likely to be exacerbated by damage during Storm Angusto the main cable that carries electricity back and forth between the UK and France. It is believed a boat dropping anchor during the storm may have been responsible but National Grid is investigating the cause and working to repair the Interconnexion France-Angleterre, which is buried in the seabed and heavily armoured.

The operator said that four of the eight cables in the interconnector had been damaged, reducing its capacity from 2,000MW to 1,000MW until February next year. It added that due to the French reactor closures, it had already factored in a reduction in energy supplies from France this winter.

Magnin said that instead of backing new nuclear, the UK and France should capitalise on falling wind and solar power costs and help individuals and communities to build and run their own renewable energy projects. He founded an association of cities switching to green energy, joined the EDF board in 2014, and is now director of a renewable energy co-op in France.

“The most surprising [thing] for me is the attitude of the UK government which accepts the higher cost of electricity … in a time where the costs of renewables is decreasing dramatically,” he said. “In 10 years [when Hinkley Point C is due to be completed], the cost of renewables will have fallen again a lot.”

Of the Hinkley C design, known as the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), Magnin said: “A lot of people in EDF have known for a long time the EPR has no future – too sophisticated, too expensive – but they assume their commitments and try to save the face of France.”

The UK’s business department conceded in September that by the time Hinkley is operational the price of electricity guaranteed to EDF will be above the comparable costs for large-scale solar and onshore windfarms. Officials argued that using renewables instead would cost more in grid upgrades and balancing the intermittent nature of wind and solar……. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/29/french-nuclear-power-worst-situation-ever-former-edf-director

November 30, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, France | Leave a comment