French nuclear safety agency warns of Flamanville EPR meltdown risk

France — Investigation

French nuclear safety inspectors have discovered numerous faults with crucial safety valves in the cooling system of what will be one of the world’s biggest nuclear power plants under construction at Flamanville, on the Channel coast, Mediapart can reveal. The malfunctioning valves for the Areva-designed, third-generation European Pressurized Reactor could cause its meltdown, in a similar scenario to the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident in the US. The inspectors’ damning confidential report, obtained by Mediapart, follows the revelation last month that the Flamanville EPR reactor’s vessel contained excessive amounts of carbon that could cause it to crack. Pascale Pascariello reports.

Faulty electrical equipment in French nuclear plants poses ‘heightened reactor meltdown risk’, warns safety watchdog

France — Investigation

France’s nuclear safety agency, the ASN, has warned of the potentially catastrophic danger posed by faulty electric circuit breakers found in a number of nuclear power plants located around the country, and which could eventually cause the meltdown of their reactor cores. Recorded incidents have shown that numerous circuit breakers regularly failed to function since they were first installed four years ago. While the plants’ operator, utilities giant EDF, has played down the gravity of the problem, the ASN has ordered it to start looking for replacement equipment “as of now”. Jade Lindgaard reports.

Watchdog warns major nuclear accident would cost France 430 bln euros

France — Link

A nuclear accident similar to that of Fukushima in Japan would cost France about 20 percent of its economic output, IRSN study finds.

France’s 58 nuclear reactors need safety upgrade to resist natural disasters, says watchdog

France — Report

Nuclear power plants in France, the most nuclear dependent country in the world, are vulnerable to the catastrophic effects of a major natural disaster such as that which hit the Japanese plant at Fukushima in March. That is the conclusion of a stress-test study of the country's 58-strong reactor fleet carried out by the French radioprotection and nuclear safety institute, the IRSN, presented Thursday by the national nuclear safety agency, the ASN, which warned that "massive investment" is required for the recommended safety upgrades. Jade Lindgaard reports on the findings.

Fukushima mysteries remain, says French nuke safety chief who warns of uncalculated hazards ahead


Jacques Repussard, director-general of France's Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety, recently travelled to Japan to study the situation at the quake- and tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant (photo), where the battle continues to bring the overheating reactors under control and to stem radioactive pollution seeping from the site. In a revealing interview with Mediapart's Sophie Dufau and Michel de Pracontal, he details what he learnt from his trip and what lessons the Fukushima disaster offers for nuclear safety standards in France.