Sunday, April 19, 2015

Nuclear Plant May Have Unsafe Steel

Subtitle:  France May Have Installed Unsafe Steel In Flamanville Reactor

Several recent articles, including this one from BBC (see link), and this from RT (see link) state that the new nuclear power plant under construction in France's Flamanville complex has reactor vessel components with high carbon content; making the steel weaker than it should be.  
EPR Reactor Vessel for Flamanville, France

From the BBC article:

"In a joint statement, Areva and EDF said new tests were under way on the "reactor vessel head and bottom".

"It said this followed initial tests which had shown "greater than average carbon content" - something French regulators said caused "lower than expected mechanical toughness" in the steel."

This nuclear plant is the new, 1600 MWe EPR design, or European Pressurized Reactor.  Another EPR is under construction at Olkiluoto, Finland.   The planned new reactor at UK's Hinkley Point is to also have the same EPR design.   

Not having access to the laboratory test reports for the reactor components at Flamanville, it is not possible to assess the problem.  However, a few comments are in order. 

First, what quality control measures are in place that would allow such steel to be fabricated and installed?   It would appear that French regulators are remiss in their duty to ensure only acceptable materials of construction are used. 

Next, what impacts will occur if (and when) the reactor is rejected as unsafe?  How long will a new reactor require for fabrication and installation?    What will be the cost impacts?  Will the plant be finished, or abandoned as hopelessly costly?   Alternatively, can the reactor be modified at this time and made safe?  What will be the cost and schedule impacts of such modifications?

Next, what impact will there be on future plants?  Is the reactor at Olkiluoto made of the same steel?  The Hinkley Point EPR reactors are also stated as made from the same steel.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California USA

copyright (c) 2015 by Roger Sowell 

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