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Sloppy safety and waste management at Electricite de France’s nuclear sites

Improve Nuclear Plant Maintenance Works, Watchdog Says, Francois de Beaupuy, Bloomberg News  (Bloomberg) 24 Jan 2020 — Electricite de France SA and its suppliers must improve maintenance operations at nuclear reactors and waste management because they have lost skills and become sloppy in recent years, the French nuclear safety authority said.

The warning reflects a string of incidents related to substandard manufacturing or installation of equipment at EDF and its suppliers. It underscores the difficulties the French nuclear giant faces in extending the lifetime of aging reactors and building new ones, prompting it to announce an action plan to revamp the industry’s skills.

“There’s a need to reinforce skills and some carelessness among some players in the industry,” Bernard Doroszczuk, chairman of Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, said at a press conference near Paris on Thursday. “There’s a lack of rigor in the oversight of safety by operators,” from manufacturing to welding to equipment tests “which must be corrected.”

Discussions are still going on with EDF regarding safety improvements, including ways to prevent or mitigate the impact outside its plants in case of a severe accident such as the meltdown of the radioactive fuel and its vessel, said Sylvie Cadet-Mercier, a commissioner of the regulator. A spokesman for the utility declined to comment…… https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/edf-must-improve-nuclear-plant-maintenance-works-watchdog-says-1.1378571

January 25, 2020 Posted by | France, safety, wastes | Leave a comment

Legal action against Orano’s lying advertising about nuclear power solving climate change

 

Reporterre 16th Jan 2020  The Sortir du nuclear network is filing a complaint against an Orano advertising campaign, which presents nuclear energy as a solution against climate change. A false statement intended to boost investments in a declining sector, denounces the association.

https://reporterre.net/Le-nucleaire-bon-pour-le-climat-Orano-poursuivi-pour-publicite-mensongere

January 18, 2020 Posted by | France, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Significant drop in France’s nuclear energy production

Reuters 10th Jan 2020, EDF’s French nuclear power generation fell by a more than expected 3.5 percent last year, the state-owned utility said on Friday. The French company’s domestic nuclear output power dropped to 379.5 terawatt hours (TWh), missing a revised production target of between 384 TWh and 388 TWh.
EDF attributed the drop to a high volume of reactor outages, with nuclear
power output tumbling in the final month of 2019 by 15.2% to 33 TWh. The
operator of France’s 58 nuclear reactors, covering about 75% of the
country’s electricity needs, had revised its 2019 nuclear production
target from 390 TWh to between 384 TWh and 388 TWh in November because of reactor maintenance and safety checks after an earthquake.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-edf-nuclearpower/edf-misses-2019-french-nuclear-power-target-idUSKBN1Z926J

January 14, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, France | Leave a comment

The European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) is dragging nuclear company EDF into $billions of debt

Climate News Network 31st Dec 2019, The edifice already heading for the status of the largest and most expensive construction project in the world, the Hinkley C nuclear power station (above)  in the UK, is dragging its builder, the French giant EDF, into ever-deeper debt: the company’s flagship reactor is facing still more delay.

Although EDF is a vast company, owning 58 reactors in France alone,
and is 85% owned by the French state, it owes around €60 billion ($67bn),
a debt expected to increase by €3 billion ($3.35bn) a year.

This has led some city analysts, notably S&P Global, to downgrade the company’s prospects to “negative” − which is essentially a recommendation to
shareholders to sell.

Apart from the problem that EDF’s fleet of reactors in France is operating well beyond their original design life and are in constant need of safety and maintenance upgrades, the company’s main problem is its flagship, the European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR), which is getting into ever-greater difficulties.

In Europe there are four EPRs under construction: the two barely begun at Hinkley Point in Somerset in the west of England; one in northern France at Flamanville (below) in Normandy; and the original prototype in Finland, known as Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) (above) . The extraordinary fact is that, although OL3 was due to start up in 2009, it is still incomplete, and its start date has just been put back again – until 2021.

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/flagship-reactor-launch-postponed-again/

January 2, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment

“Potentially faulty electrical components” in France’s nuclear backup systems

December 30, 2019 Posted by | France, safety | Leave a comment

In France, over the next decade renewable energy is ‘on track to overtake nuclear’

December 17, 2019 Posted by | France, renewable | Leave a comment

Legal action regarding defective welds in EPR nuclear reactor

Crilan 16th Dec 2019, On July 20, 2018 and following the “Sortir du nuclear” network and Greenpeace France, CRILAN filed a complaint with the Cherbourg Public  Prosecutor concerning defective welds, particularly those relating to
crossings of the containment. This December 16, 2019, following ASN
inspections and in connection with the complaint by Réseau “Sortir du
nuclear” and Greenpeace France, CRILAN files a complaint with the Public
Prosecutor of Paris for serious breaches relating to the qualification of
some equipment installed on the EPR.

These are materials participating in
the safety demonstration: mechanical (pumps, valves) or electrical (relays,
circuit breakers, etc.). This qualification is based in particular on
studies and tests. It must be the subject of documentation and traceability
of reservations and “open” points, which has not always been the case.
As EDF is subject to regulations on basic nuclear installations, violations
committed may be penalized.

http://crilan.fr/le-crilan-porte-plainte-contre-edf-pour-manquements-graves-relatifs-a-la-qualification-de-certains-materiels-installes-sur-lepr/

December 17, 2019 Posted by | France, Legal, safety | Leave a comment

France’s EDF company is trying to ‘restore trust’ in the nuclear industry

EDF unveils plan to ‘restore trust’ in French nuclear industry, Move comes as utility’s next-generation plant is beset by ballooning costs and delays, 

Michael Pooler in Paris , Ft.com, 13 Dec 19,
EDF has drawn up a plan to “restore trust” in France’s nuclear power industry after a government-commissioned report lambasted failings at the energy group’s troubled flagship nuclear project. The state-backed company said it would spend €100m on measures including a skills programme, a scheme for selecting suppliers and initiatives to improve project management and industrial standards. This came after the French government, which owns 84 per cent of EDF, gave the utility a month to draw up a scheme to fix problems at Flamanville after the flagship project stumbled into delays and cost overruns.
  A government-commissioned report into the failings at Flamanville, published in October, also pointed to a loss of skills in France’s nuclear sector. “We want to restore more trust in the ability of the French nuclear industry to deliver according to its objectives, in terms of cost, time and schedule,” said EDF’s chairman and chief executive Jean-Bernard Lévy.  ……
Flamanville is considered a litmus test for next-generation European Pressurised Reactor technology, which supporters say will be a bigger, safer and more efficient type of nuclear plant. But the plant’s construction, which was supposed to last four-and-a-half years, is now expected to take 15 years to complete at about four times its originally projected cost of €3.3bn. This follows problems such as faulty weldings. Once a leader in atomic power, France will not decide whether to build more EPRs until Flamanville is up and running.
  To address the sector-wide issues identified in October’s damning report, EDF will seek to change how risks are shared with suppliers and set up a college dedicated to “nuclear disciplines” where there are shortages, such as welding. ……

EDF’s plans come during a turbulent period for the group. Not only is it under fire for delays at another planned EPR site in the UK, but it is heading towards a corporate reorganisation.
This would create a government-owned mother company, EDF Bleu, containing its nuclear and hydroelectric assets. Bleu’s main subsidiary, EDF Vert, will house renewable energy, networks and services businesses, and will have a stock market listing. Under an energy planning law enacted this year, France must reduce its share of electricity produced by nuclear from 72 per cent to 50 per cent by 2035, with the rest coming from renewables. However, new atomic power stations may need to be built to replace ageing facilities, which will also need investment for retrofitting and maintenance. ….https://www.ft.com/content/9a33d12a-1da5-11ea-97df-cc63de1d73f4

December 14, 2019 Posted by | France, spinbuster | Leave a comment

France’s nuclear industry in dire straits

The French nuclear revolution is rusting away, December 6, 2019, THE AUSTRALIAN, Henry Ergas “……..France’s nuclear power industry faces a future that is more uncertain than ever.  The problems gripping the industry were highlighted late last month in an official report prepared by the former president and chief executive of PSA Peugeot Citroen, Jean Martin Folz.

While the report’s focus is on the difficulties that have plagued the construction of a new reactor at Flamanville in northwestern France, its implications reach much further.

With nuclear power plants accounting for more than 70 per cent of its overall electricity generation, no country is as dependent on nuclear energy as is France.

The decision to rely so massively on nuclear energy was taken in 1974, after the oil shock of the previous year had underlined France’s vulnerability to Middle Eastern oil. Prime minister Pierre Messmer launched a crash program that led to the construction of 56 reactors in just 15 years.

…….. however, most of France’s generators are approaching the final decade of their useful life. Planning for their replacement has been a stop-start affair, with the Greens’ increasingly strident opposition to nuclear power deterring successive governments from taking action.

As a result, only the Flamanville plant received the go-ahead, with construction beginning in 2007 for an expected entry into service in 2012. Virtually from the outset, the project was beset by woes. At this stage, the total costs of construction are four times greater than initially estimated, while the plant will not enter service before the end of 2022.

The problems stem partly from the sheer complexity of the new reactor, which is the first of its kind to be built in France.

Additionally, the catastrophe at Fukushima in 2011 led to regulatory changes that necessitated costly redesigns. And the project has suffered more than its fair share of mismanagement, aggravated by a byzantine allocation of responsibilities between EDF, the main French electricity utility, which oversaw the project, and many layers of subcontractors.

However, as the Folz report shows, the primary cause of the difficulties lies in the erosion of the industry’s skill base during the long hiatus from the end of the crash program in 1990 to the initiation of Flamanville………

There is, at this point, no prospect of France scaling up its nuclear program ………The cost blowout at Olkiluoto drove Areva, the “national champion” of France’s nuclear industry, into bankruptcy.

Even with an injection of $7.3bn in public funds EDF, which acquired Areva, lacks the balance sheet strength to underwrite new projects, while the French government’s borrowing ability is hampered by its already too high levels of debt.

To make matters worse, the regulated prices at which EDF has to sell the power it generates mean that it cannot charge its European clients the full value of the baseload it supplies.

As for global investors, who might provide the debt financing EDF would require, they are wary of projects that are risky in themselves ….

Given those constraints, the government has announced a modest plan to eventually build six additional reactors. So far, however, there are no actionable decisions beyond the completion of Flamanville. And work on the next generation of reactors….. has been quietly downgraded, making it likely that there will no fourth generation reactor of French design.

The consequences for France itself are far-reaching. Beginning in the late 1950s, French firms succeeded in one high-technology market after the other by developing or acquiring a rather basic design (including the Westinghouse Pressurised Water Reactor, the Mirage jet fighter and the TGV high-speed train) that they up­graded while producing it on a large scale.

That era is over, and there is every sign France is struggling with almost all the major projects it has in train.

The Folz report should therefore come as an ominous warning for Australia’s submarine project, as it identifies French industry’s serious managerial and technological weaknesses in a range of areas, such as precision welding, that are crucial to that project’s success……. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/commentary/the-french-nuclear-revolution-is-rusting-away/news-story/afe4546ed799939cf117d71f05035c5e

December 7, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment

Another shutdown at French nuclear power station Golfech

France Bleu 2nd Dec 2019. A nuclear reactor again shut down at the Golfech power station after a leak. The production unit number 2 of the Tarn-et-Garonne power plant was stopped this Monday, December 2 in the morning, after the discovery of a steam leak in a non-nuclear part. This reactor had just been restarted just four days ago.

https://www.francebleu.fr/infos/sante-sciences/un-reacteur-nucleaire-de-nouveau-arrete-a-golfech-apres-une-fuite-1575296981

December 5, 2019 Posted by | France, safety | Leave a comment

France wants to label nuclear as “green”. Germany will have none of it

Paris, Berlin divided over nuclear’s recognition as green energy   https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/news/france-and-germany-divided-over-nuclears-inclusion-in-eus-green-investment-label/  By Cécile Barbière | EURACTIV.fr | translated by Daniel Eck  27 Nov 19, Disagreement on the inclusion of nuclear power in the EU’s upcoming green finance taxonomy has revived long-standing divisions between France and Germany over the energy transition. EURACTIV France reports.

Franco-German relations have already been strained by French President Emmanuel Macron’s radical comments on NATO’s “brain death,” which attracted strong rebukes in Berlin.

Now, the European Commission’s proposed taxonomy for sustainable finance has emerged as a new bone of contention.

Tabled in 2018, the EU taxonomy aims to determine which economic activities can benefit from a sustainable finance label at European level. The objective is to give clear indications to investors so they can redirect their financing towards environmentally-friendly sectors.

Six pre-defined environmental objectives must be met in order to obtain the label. If any technology seriously undermines one of those goals, it is automatically disqualified.

It is because of this double level of control that nuclear energy failed to win the green label in the European Parliament, until the Council representing EU member states voted to reinstate it in September.

Although nuclear energy largely meets the low-carbon emissions objective, “it was not possible to include nuclear power because there is no scientific evidence for waste treatment. This means that the sector does not meet both requirements,” explained  Jochen Krimphoff, WWF’s deputy director for green finance.

Since the beginning of the negotiations on the EU’s taxonomy, France has been pushing to reintroduce nuclear power, much to Germany’s dismay.

“France will advocate that nuclear energy should be part of this eco-label,” said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire at the conference to replenish the Green Fund at the end of October.

“We cannot succeed in the ecological transition, and we cannot achieve our goal in terms of combating global warming without nuclear energy,” the French minister said.

Although nuclear energy largely meets the low-carbon emissions objective, “it was not possible to include nuclear power because there is no scientific evidence for waste treatment. This means that the sector does not meet both requirements,” explained  Jochen Krimphoff, WWF’s deputy director for green finance.

Since the beginning of the negotiations on the EU’s taxonomy, France has been pushing to reintroduce nuclear power, much to Germany’s dismay.

“France will advocate that nuclear energy should be part of this eco-label,” said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire at the conference to replenish the Green Fund at the end of October.

“We cannot succeed in the ecological transition, and we cannot achieve our goal in terms of combating global warming without nuclear energy,” the French minister said.

The move is all the more surprising given France’s rather progressive positions on the taxonomy. For example, Paris has, like the Commission and Parliament, been calling for the taxonomy to enter into force as early as 2020, while the Council has advocated for implementation in 2023.

For its part, Germany would not be opposed to labeling gas as green. This could be at the risk of a deal that would see both gas and nuclear power re-entering the scheme.

November 28, 2019 Posted by | France, Germany, politics international | 1 Comment

France’s Flamanville nuclear financial catastrophe gets worse

 


Le Monde 22nd Nov 2019,
Jean-Martin Folz’s report on the construction of the Flamanville EPR, handed out on October 28 , is without appeal for the French nuclear power industry. The financial catastrophe continues to worsen. The project is currently 10 years late and 9 billion euros over budget. He helped engulf Areva, flagship of the French nuclear industry, declared bankrupt in 2016, which owed its salvation to a bailout on public funds of 4.5 billion euros.
It now weighs on the accounts of EDF, a new prime contractor since the
wreck of Areva, which no longer hopes to connect the reactor to the network
before 2022.

November 25, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment

France’s government is giving mixed messages on future of nuclear energy

EDF gives Macron little reason to come clean on nuclear  https://www.ft.com/content/adbe9da6-0ab8-11ea-bb52-34c8d9dc6d84   Problems at a flagship nuclear reactor means French government can take time over future of EDF, BEN HALL , Europe editor NOVEMBER 20 2019  

The earthquake that shook the Rhone valley in south-east France last week could have been another financial disaster for energy giant EDF in what has been a bruising year. Its share price has taken a battering over concerns that it will struggle to pay for the upkeep of its ageing fleet of reactors, find money to build new ones and service its €37bn of net debt. The worries have been amplified by further delays and cost overruns at the mammoth nuclear plant it is building on the Normandy coast. The Rhone valley is home to four of the country’s 19 atomic power stations and a nuclear fuel processing facility, all operated by EDF. The tremor was the worst to hit France in 16 years. Three reactors at Cruas had to be shut down until mid-December for mandatory safety checks.

“It made me shudder,” said one French official. At 5.4 on the Richter scale, the quake was not strong enough to damage or seriously disrupt EDF reactors. Anything worse, the official said, could have killed confidence in what was only recently regarded as an industrial crown jewel, an emblem of France’s technical ingenuity and energy independence.  That confidence had been dealt a blow last month in a damning report commissioned by the government into what has gone wrong in Normandy, with France’s first European Pressurised Reactor, a bigger, safer and more efficient type of plant. The EPR at Flamanville was supposed to have cost €3.3bn and taken four and a half years to build. Instead, the price has ballooned fourfold and construction will last 15 years.  
 The report, by Jean-Martin Folz, a former boss of Peugeot, identified a litany of failures, starting with EDF’s initial gross underestimation of costs and construction challenges, multiple delays, faults and technical problems, poor project management, chronic tensions among contractors and partners and a lack of technical skills. Many of the flaws in construction have come from substandard welding contractors. The report also pointed to the stop-start nature of France’s nuclear reactor construction after the 1980s splurge. Work at Flamanville began in 2007. Work on the last reactor before that began in 1991.

The French government, which owns 83.7 per cent of the company, is giving mixed messages about the way forward. It will not decide whether to build more EPRs until Flamanville is up and running — conveniently after the 2022 presidential election, allowing Emmanuel Macron to avoid the wrath of France’s increasingly powerful environmental movement. But according to Le Monde newspaper, the government has also secretly ordered EDF to draw up a feasibility study for six new EPRs built in pairs.

Under an energy planning law enacted this year, France must reduce the share of its electricity produced by nuclear from 72 per cent to 50 per cent by 2035, with the rest coming from renewables. EDF will have to shut down 14 ageing reactors. Given the expected rise in energy demand, though, it will have to extend the life of many others.
  So for Jean-Bernard Lévy, EDF chief executive, a bigger problem than when to build new EPRs is persuading the government to raise electricity prices to help the company finance a vast maintenance and investment programme — not easy when your big flagship project has been so badly managed. UBS estimates a total investment requirement of more than €100bn, if 80 per cent of today’s reactors secure a 20-year life extension.
Ministers and EDF have floated the idea of splitting EDF into a nuclear arm and renewables one to help persuade EU authorities that it would not use more generous electricity tariffs to cross-subsidise renewables and to raise money for wind and solar energy, where France lags behind its European partners. But France’s trade unions dislike the idea, fearing partial flotation of the renewables arm could lead to full privatisation.
  “The restructuring is definitely interesting for shareholders. But the longer you have to wait, the longer you have for things to surprise you in the business,” said Sam Arie, analyst at UBS. That has been the story of 2019, with a litany of problems at Flamanville and other plants weighing on the share price. The failures at Flamanville have given Paris reason to withhold the clarity EDF needs — even if Mr Macron’s regards the nuclear industry as a strategic asset for France and Europe. The risks of nuclear power to health and safety and the costs of decommissioning and waste storage may be overblown, as Jonathan Ford has argued in this column. But if the more basic challenge of building vaguely on time or on budget cannot be met, nuclear energy soon loses its appeal. ben.hall@ft.com

November 23, 2019 Posted by | France, politics | Leave a comment

France’s company EDF selling out of USA nuclear plants, Exelon to buy.

EDF Will Bail on Three Nuclear Plants, Exelon Holds the Bag, Power Mag 11/21/2019 | Aaron Larson   Exelon Generation said EDF Group—a French integrated electricity company—is exercising a put option to sell its 49.99% interest in the R.E. Ginna, Nine Mile Point, and Calvert Cliffs nuclear energy facilities. The two companies will now begin negotiations for Exelon to acquire full ownership of the plants.

EDF’s involvement in the facilities was through the Constellation Energy Nuclear Group (CENG), a joint venture between it and Constellation Energy, which was negotiated in 2009. Exelon acquired its majority stake in the plants as part of a merger with Constellation Energy, a deal that closed in March 2012.

EDF said the disposal of CENG shares is part of a previously announced non-core-asset disposal plan. The put option could have been exercised by EDF anytime between Jan. 1, 2016, and June 30, 2022. A transaction price will follow from the determination of the fair market value of CENG shares pursuant to the contractual provisions of the put option agreement, EDF said.

……..  The facilities consist of the single-unit 576-MW R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant (Figure 1) and the dual-unit 1,907-MW Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station, which are both in upstate New York, and the dual-unit 1,756-MW Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Maryland. The upstate New York plants were under economic pressure and faced possible closure a few years ago, but subsidies approved by the state have kept the units financially viable.

Exelon said if an agreement cannot be reached, the price will be set through a third-party arbitration process to determine fair market value. The transaction will require approval by the New York Public Service Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The process and regulatory approvals “could take one to two years or more to complete,” Exelon said.  …….. https://www.powermag.com/edf-will-bail-on-three-nuclear-plants-exelon-holds-the-bag/

November 23, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, France, USA | Leave a comment

France’s nuclear company EDF – report – a litany of failures

EDF gives Macron little reason to come clean on nuclear, Problems at a flagship nuclear reactor means French government can take time over future of EDF. BEN HALL 20 Nov 19

The earthquake that shook the Rhone valley in south-east France last week could have been another financial disaster for energy giant EDF in what has been a bruising year. Its share price has taken a battering over concerns that it will struggle to pay for the upkeep of its ageing fleet of reactors, find money to build new ones and service its €37bn of net debt. The worries have been amplified by further delays and cost overruns at the mammoth nuclear plant it is building on the Normandy coast. The Rhone valley is home to four of the country’s 19 atomic power stations and a nuclear fuel processing facility, all operated by EDF. The tremor was the worst to hit France in 16 years. Three reactors at Cruas had to be shut down until mid-December for mandatory safety checks.   ……..

  a damning report commissioned by the government into what has gone wrong in Normandy, with France’s first European Pressurised Reactor, a bigger, safer and more efficient type of plant. The EPR at Flamanville was supposed to have cost €3.3bn and taken four and a half years to build. Instead, the price has ballooned fourfold and construction will last 15 years.
 The report, by Jean-Martin Folz, a former boss of Peugeot, identified a litany of failures, starting with EDF’s initial gross underestimation of costs and construction challenges, multiple delays, faults and technical problems, poor project management, chronic tensions among contractors and partners and a lack of technical skills. Many of the flaws in construction have come from substandard welding contractors. The report also pointed to the stop-start nature of France’s nuclear reactor construction after the 1980s splurge. Work at Flamanville began in 2007. Work on the last reactor before that began in 1991  .
The French government, which owns 83.7 per cent of the company, is giving mixed messages about the way forward. It will not decide whether to build more EPRs until Flamanville is up and running — conveniently after the 2022 presidential election, allowing Emmanuel Macron to avoid the wrath of France’s increasingly powerful environmental movement. But according to Le Monde newspaper, the government has also secretly ordered EDF to draw up a feasibility study for six new EPRs built in pairs.
Under an energy planning law enacted this year, France must reduce the share of its electricity produced by nuclear from 72 per cent to 50 per cent by 2035, with the rest coming from renewables. EDF will have to shut down 14 ageing reactors. Given the expected rise in energy demand, though, it will have to extend the life of many others. So for Jean-Bernard Lévy, EDF chief executive, a bigger problem than when to build new EPRs is persuading the government to raise electricity prices to help the company finance a vast maintenance and investment programme — not easy when your big flagship project has been so badly managed. UBS estimates a total investment requirement of more than €100bn, if 80 per cent of today’s reactors secure a 20-year life extension.

…………The failures at Flamanville have given Paris reason to withhold the clarity EDF needs — even if Mr Macron’s regards the nuclear industry as a strategic asset for France and Europe. The risks of nuclear power to health and safety and the costs of decommissioning and waste storage may be overblown, as Jonathan Ford has argued in this column. But if the more basic challenge of building vaguely on time or on budget cannot be met, nuclear energy soon loses its appeal. ben.hall@ft.com   https://www.ft.com/content/adbe9da6-0ab8-11ea-bb52-34c8d9dc6d84

 

November 21, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment