EDF ‘Overwhelmed’ by Nuclear Reactor Upkeep Operations, ASN Says

Electricite de France SA, the biggest nuclear operator, is facing delays in carrying out work on its atomic reactors that could pose safety and quality issues, the regulator said.

“They are overwhelmed by the work that they themselves decided to carry out,” Pierre-Franck Chevet, head of the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, told lawmakers today in Paris. The problems are “worrying” and need to be addressed.

EDF, which operates 58 nuclear reactors that provide about three-quarters of French power, has embarked on a period of maintenance and safety improvement prompted by aging equipment and tougher standards after the Fukushima meltdown. The utility missed a target last year for atomic output, blaming unexpectedly long halts for works.

EDF is spending 50 percent more time carrying out work at nuclear plants than it anticipated, Chevet told a parliamentary hearing that is investigating nuclear energy costs. The amount of work being carried out by EDF during halts has doubled in the past five years, he said.

“As soon as a schedule is modified, work quality or safety issues could arise,” he said. Two-thirds of the delays are due to poor planning or maintenance quality.

The problems may be made worse by the retirement of workers in coming years and a larger works program, he said.

EDF reported 2013 earnings today that include a target for 2014 atomic output of 410 to 415 terawatt-hours compared with 403.7 terawatt-hours for 2013.

The utility pledged to better control nuclear reactor outages this year by improving preparation and execution of maintenance.

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