Areva, EDF's Flamanville Project Faces Prolonged Uncertainty

  • Reactor vessel test extended after regulator finds `anomalies'
  • Companies confident of meeting target start date in late 2018

Electricite de France SA and Areva SA will extend tests to get approval for the reactor vessel of the Flamanville nuclear plant after the safety watchdog found “anomalies” in the structure, prolonging uncertainty over the future of the Normandy project and another in China.

Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, the safety regulator, had planned to give its ruling on the French project at the end of this year, assuming it would take several months to study the final report from the two state-controlled companies. That report now won’t be submitted until year-end, when the testing is completed, Paris-based EDF said in a statement Wednesday.

EDF, which has agreed to buy a majority stake in Areva’s reactor unit to help the troubled nuclear group, has said the deal would fall apart if the safety authority rejects the vessel already installed in the Flamanville plant. Chinese regulators have said construction of two Areva-designed reactors in Taishan will be delayed while tests in France are carried out.

The French safety authority in April last year found weaker-than-expected steel in the vessel. Replacing the structure, which contains the reactor coolant and the core, could be time-consuming and costly, it has said.

In Wednesday’s statement, EDF and Areva reaffirmed their “confidence in their ability to demonstrate the quality and safety of the reactor vessel for the start-up of the Flamanville 3 reactor,” planned for the last quarter of 2018. Assembly and testing are going ahead at the construction site in line with the announced schedule, EDF said.

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