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French Nuclear Regulator Wants Power to Impose Fines Over Safety

France’s nuclear regulator wants the power to fine atomic installations for safety breaches so faults that aren’t serious enough to close a site are fixed faster.

Fines would raise the credibility of the regulator, Pierre-Franck Chevet, head of the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, said today. Some faults take more than a decade to fix, he said.

The independent regulator has the power to shut a nuclear facility on safety concerns. In recent years it has temporarily halted the construction of EDF’s EPR reactor in Normandy and demanded billions of euros of improvements at all sites to bolster safety after the 2011 Fukushima meltdown in Japan.

The regulator oversees safety at 58 nuclear reactors run by Electricite de France SA, as well as fuel and waste processing installations run by Areva SA and research and nuclear-medicine sites. Chevet has complained previously about slow improvements at sites such as Areva’s nuclear-waste plant at La Hague.

The ASN also seeks funds to help decide whether EDF should extend the operation of current reactors, which provide about three-quarters of French power, beyond 40 years, Chevet said.

In 2015 it will provide EDF with an initial view on the utility’s plan to extend life to as long as six decades, Chevet said. While final decisions may come three or four years later, they won’t replace in-depth probes for each reactor, he said.

The safety of spent-fuel pools and reactor vessels will be part of the regulator’s focus, including how installations have aged and safety can be brought up to newer standards, he said.

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