EDF Must Boost Nuclear Safety to Operate Plants Beyond 40 Years

Electricite de France SA must improve safety at its 58 nuclear plants in the nation including ensuring spent fuel storage and reactor vessels are secure before it can win the regulator’s approval to operate them beyond 40 years.

“EDF must propose ambitious improvements for the safety of spent fuel storage” and be prepared to replace equipment on a large scale, Autorite de Surete Nucleaire said in a statement.

EDF, the biggest European power generator, has set aside billions of euros to improve safety and keep reactors running for as long as six decades. While some models due to run for 30 years were given approval to operate an extra decade, President Francois Hollande has ordered the halt of EDF’s oldest plant at Fessenheim in a first step to cutting reliance on atomic power.

While EDF’s program to extend the life of its reactors is “satisfactory,” it needs to be bolstered in some areas, the regulator said in a statement on its website. The demands for improved safety, beyond measures required after the Fukushima meltdown in Japan, seek to bring standards closer to those of newer nuclear models like the EPR, according to the regulator.

The safety of spent fuel storage at current reactors doesn’t meet the level of new installations, it said.

Under the regulatory system, the ASN carries out in-depth inspections of reactors every 10 years to determine whether they can function for another decade. This method will continue even as EDF seeks regulatory approval to replace equipment and carry out other work needed to enable reactors to run for 60 years.

“We are a long way from making a decision” on a possible extension beyond 40 years, Pierre-Franck Chevet, head of the ASN, told a parliamentary hearing in Paris in April. “We are at the very beginning of a process.”

The government is leading a debate on the nation’s energy mix. Hollande has pledged to diversify generation by adding renewable energies such as wind and solar.

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