EDF Can Prolong Fessenheim Reactor With Safety Work, ASN Says

Electricite de France SA, the biggest operator of nuclear reactors, has to carry out safety work on Unit 2 of its oldest atomic plant at Fessenheim so it can better withstand a serious accident, according to the safety regulator.

The reactor’s concrete base has to be strengthened and an alternative source of coolant must be added, the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire said in a statement. The request follows a once-a-decade inspection of the reactor and is similar to work EDF has started on Unit 1 of the plant that was also ordered by the watchdog.

The ASN said it has “no objections” with EDF continuing to operate Unit 2 as long as the work is carried out by the end of the year.

“EDF will carry out the work imposed by the ASN within the stipulated deadlines,” the utility said in a statement. Some of the work on Unit 2 will be carried out during a planned outage in July.

EDF, operating all of France’s 58 reactors, was ordered by ASN to thicken the base of the 900-megawatt Unit 1 at Fessenheim in the east of the country after a meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima in 2011. The concrete at the two reactors, which began operating in 1977, is thinner than at other plants and the regulator said it would be shut unless the slab was strengthened to withstand earthquakes.

EDF is pushing ahead with the work on Unit 1 even though President Francois Hollande has slated the plant to be shut by the end of 2016 as part of his pledge to lower the country’s reliance on atomic power.

The ASN has said thickening the base of the reactors has never been carried out before. EDF has had to take special precautions to protect workers from radioactivity.

The ASN carries out in-depth inspections on each of the country’s nuclear reactors every decade to decide whether they can continue operations. EDF Chief Executive Officer Henri Proglio has said he would like the plants to operate for 60 years while the ASN has declined to give an opinion on this.

EDF has also had to reinforce the Fessenheim plant against flooding because it is near the Alsace Canal

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