EDF Has Welding Problems at Flamanville Reactor, Watchdog Says

Electricite de France SA, Europe’s biggest power producer, experienced renewed problems with welding quality at the EPR nuclear reactor being built in Normandy, according France’s nuclear safety agency.

Faults in welds of the containment liner of the Flamanville EPR, the utility’s first in France, were found during an inspection in July, the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire said in an Aug. 27 report on its website. EDF officials weren’t immediately available for a comment.

“Welding difficulties caused by the ergonomics of the welder’s post” were the cause of similar problems at the building site in 2008 and 2009 and treatment by EDF “was not performed correctly,” according to the report. The agency also said EDF was slow in detecting “inferior weld quality.”

EDF’s EPR, which was designed by Areva SA, is considered key to the utility’s ability to export nuclear technology to other countries. Earlier this month, EDF was asked for modifications of the control platform on the reactor, which is delayed and will cost more than expected.

EDF is developing a similar model in Taishan, China, and plans more in Italy, the U.K. and U.S. The state-controlled operator of France’s 58 nuclear reactors in July said the Normandy reactor will cost 5 billion euros to develop, about 50 percent more than initially estimated, and will be delayed by about two years to 2014.

Pierced Concrete

The agency also said a worker at the EPR site “partially pierced” a concrete block which contained a 400,000-volt cable for one of Flamanville’s other reactors. The reactor was shut for refueling at the time and had enough emergency supply, the agency said, citing “lack of information” and “poor identification of the cable” as the reasons for the incident.

The EPR, which was rejected the United Arab Emirates in a $20 billion nuclear order last year, was criticized for its “complexity” in a government-sponsored report this year. EDF has said the delay and cost overruns are because the reactor is a “first-of-a-kind” even as Areva experiences its own delays and budget overruns building an EPR in Finland.

EDF started work at Flamanville in December 2007.

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