EDF's reputation faces risk of meltdown

The spiralling cost of the new nuclear reactor at Flamanville, north-west France, is testing the professional reputation of utility giant EDF.

This article is open access. Information protects us. I subscribe

It will have taken a decade to build, doubled in price and cost several lives along the way. So it's no surprise that France's first new nuclear power plant for 15 years has become a divisive political issue, reports The Telegraph.

The tale is not unlike the story of another giant cupola that turned into a white elephant, Britain's Millennium Dome.

The price tag of the nuclear reactor at Flamanville, which looms large on the horizon of north-west France, is now €6bn (£5.3bn). At stake is the professional reputation of EDF, the French state-controlled utility giant, which is looking also to build Britain's first two nuclear plants for a generation.

It wasn't meant to be like this when work started at Flamanville in 2006. EDF was supposed use a new type of technology from another French state-backed company, Areva, called the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR).

The plan was then to trial the pioneering design and duplicate it across the world, from China to the US. It was assumed that EDF would lead the charge for a new generation of UK nuclear power plants when it bought a financially stricken British Energy and its eight reactors in 2008.

After new nuclear power was confirmed as a priority by the UK Government, EDF put itself forward to lead the construction of its first two nuclear power stations in a generation - with a plant in Somerset by 2018 and another in Suffolk by 2020.

Back then, EDF thought that each plant would cost just €3.3bn and take around five years to build. Flamanville would be the flagship station showing the rest of the world that EDF, and its contractor Areva, could manage the safe, reliable and timely construction of a plant within budget.

Up until June last year, EDF was still insisting that Flamanville would be ready by 2012. But as experts started casting doubt on this timetable, it was forced to revise its cost estimate to €5bn and time to 2014. A year later, EDF has admitted things have slipped again - now to 2016 and €6bn.

Behind the scenes, not all has been well at Flamanville, where 3,400 people work. Repeated accusations about conditions for workers and its safety record have been made in the French press. Earlier this year, French newspaper L'Humanite obtained papers from the ASN, France's nuclear safety watchdog, saying there was "systematic underestimation of workplace accidents" by the contractor.

Bouygues. the contractor, claimed this was a misunderstanding, saying all accidents on the site are noted and safety is its priority.

 

Read more on this story from The Daily Telegraph.

 

No mobilization without confidence
No trust without truth
Support us