Saturday, June 18, 2016

Hinkley Point C Nuclear Plant with Yet More Troubles

Subtitle:  Reactor Design In Question - Finances a Fiasco

The proposed nuclear plant at UK's Hinkley Point C has had substantial issues with approval as written about earlier on SLB (see here and here).  The plant is to consist of two reactors of 1600 MWe each of the EPR (European Pressurized Reactor) design.  An EPR inludes a single reactor with four steam generator loops.   Such EPR projects are having serious schedule and cost overrun issues at Flamanville, France and Olkiluoto, Finland.  Another is to startup soon in China.   From a recent article in The Guardian (UK), titled "EDF’s top managers tell MPs that Hinkley Point should be postponed - Senior figures at French energy company declare in letter that delay is needed until issues including reactor design are solved"   see link

"Outstanding problems highlighted by the senior managers at EDF include:

Areva NP, the designer of the European pressurised reactor (EPR) planned for Somerset (Hinkley Point), “is currently facing a difficult situation”.

The French nuclear safety authority (ASN) may not give the green light to the EPR being constructed at Flamanville in north-west France due to various anomalies (falsified inspection reports).

There may be “identical flaws” in an Areva EPR being built at Taishan 1 in China.

The scandal over falsification of parts from Areva’s Le Creusot (the steel supplier) that potentially put safety checks at risk.

Multibillion-euro litigation between Areva and the Finnish energy group TVO over delays to an EPR scheme at Olkiluoto remains unsettled.

An EDF offer to purchase Areva expired on 31 March, leaving “governance uncertainties upon the implementation of the Hinkley Point C project”.


The nuclear cheerleaders are loud and emphatic about the new generation of plants being economic and safe, and of course they claim they will last for 60 (some say 80!) years.  One must wonder, though, why such economic and safe plants (they say) have such horrible records of construction, why the very steel in the reactors themselves are not sufficiently strong to meet the safety standards, and now why there is so much opposition to the financing of yet another EPR, this one in the UK.  

To review: Olkiluoto is years behind schedule, and billions of Euros over budget.  Flamanville also is years behind schedule, billions of Euros over budget, and the reactor steel is alleged to be too weak to be safe (that is the "identical flaws" in the Guardian article above).  The steel safety issue is still under investigation.  The problem is that some of the molecules that are used to increase the alloy's strength did not remain properly dispersed in the thick steel, but congregated into clumps where they actually weaken the steel.   That is a serious and very expensive problem that will likely kill the project because casting a new reactor blank, then forging and finishing will cost far too much and take far too long.   

The French financial fiasco is in addition to the French steel strength saga.  

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

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved

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