France Investigation

Inspections highlight worrying safety lapses at French nuclear power plants

A Parliamentary report recently called for improvements in safety at the country's nuclear power plants. In response, the state-backed power utility EDF, which operates the plants, insisted that safety is its top priority. But documents from the French nuclear watchdog the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire seen by Mediapart – but not by French MPs who wrote the report – reveal a different story. They show that procedures to prevent explosions in areas of several nuclear plants are deeply inadequate and in some cases non-existent. Pascale Pascariello reports.

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Inspections carried out by France's nuclear safety authority the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN) in March 2017 and 2018 to examine how safety regulations relating to the risk of explosions at four of the country's nuclear power stations plants are implemented highlight lapses in procedure and equipment, Mediapart can reveal. They show that in the power plants at Chinon, Flamanville, Penly and Paluel, operators EDF have failed to respect what are known as the ATEX rules on controlling potentially explosive atmospheres and have underestimated the risks of explosions at these centres. These findings, which Mediapart has seen, did not however feature in a recent Parliamentary report which called for improvements in safety in France's nuclear industry.

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