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EDF Gets Six Years to Carry Out $12 Billion Safety Measures

Electricite de France SA, operator of the country’s 58 nuclear reactors, has six years to complete about 10 billion euros ($12 billion) of measures to boost safety after Japan’s Fukushima disaster, the regulator said.

Autorite de Surete Nucleaire today published deadlines for employing equipment such as diesel generators, bunkered control rooms, and guards against flooding.

An estimate by state-owned EDF that the measures will cost about 10 billion euros “is not improbable,” Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of the watchdog, told reporters today.

“No one can ever guarantee that a nuclear accident will never happen in France,” he said. “We may need 10 years to completely understand what happened at Fukushima.”

The meltdown in Fukushima last year sparked a debate about the reliance on atomic energy in France, which gets more than 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, the highest proportion in the world. Some politicians had called for Paris-based EDF, the world’s biggest nuclear operator, to close some reactors.

While safety must be “more robust,” France’s nuclear operators don’t need to immediately shut sites, Lacoste said.

“The stakes are high for the group,” EDF Chief Executive Officer Henri Proglio said in a statement today, confirming that the utility will complete the work required by the ASN.

Control Rooms

EDF was told today to install “core” safety equipment and procedures at every plant to cope with extreme situations. Emergency diesel generators for backup power have to be deployed between 2016 and the end of 2018 and rapid response teams with specialized equipment by the end of 2014. EDF also has to have bunker-like control rooms.

EDF said it wants the rapid response force to be able to intervene simultaneously at all reactors at any one site by 2014 and to have installed emergency diesel generators at each reactor by 2018.

Stress tests on nuclear installations carried out in Europe were “remarkable” in their thoroughness, Lacoste said, urging U.S. authorities to require backup diesel generators and in-depth inspections at reactors every decade. “We want the U.S. regulators to be as rigorous as the Europeans,” he said.

The regulator published its broad requirements for the industry in January and today made the details public.

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