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Taxpayers face bill for nuclear crisis

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Paul Brown

The liabilities of Électricité de France (EDF) − the biggest electricity supplier in Europe, with 39 million customers − are increasing so fast that they will soon exceed its assets, according a report by an independent equity research company,

Bankruptcy for EDF seems inevitable − and if such a vast empire in any other line of business seemed to be in such serious financial trouble, there would be near-panic in the workforce and in governments at the subsequent political fall-out.

But it seems that the nuclear-dominated EDF group1 is considered too big to be allowed to fail. So, to keep the lights on in western Europe, the company will have to be bailed out by the taxpayers of France and the UK.

The French government, facing elections next spring, and the British, struggling with the implications of the Brexit vote to leave the European Union, are currently turning a blind eye to the report by AlphaValue that EDF has badly under-reported its potential liabilities.2

Aging nuclear reactors

While EDF is threatening to sue people who say it is technically bankrupt, the evidence is that the cost of producing electricity from its aging nuclear reactors is greater than the market price.

Coupled with the impossibility of EDF paying the full decommissioning costs of its reactors, it is inevitable that it is the taxpayers in France and the UK who will eventually pick up the bill.

There is also the ongoing thorny problem of disposing of the nuclear waste and spent fuel rods, which are building up in cooling ponds and stores on both sides of the Channel, with no disposal route yet in sight.

A looming problem for EDF, which already admits is has €37 billion of debt, is that 17 of its aging fleet of nuclear reactors, which provide 70% of France's electricity, are being retired.

According to AlphaValue, EDF has underestimated the liabilities for decommissioning these reactors by €20 billion. Another €33.5 billion should be added to cost of handling nuclear waste, the report says.

Juan Camilo Rodriguez, an equity analyst who is the author of the report, says that a correct adjustment of nuclear provisions would lead to the technical bankruptcy of the company.

In a statement, EDF said it "strongly contests the alleged accounting and financial analyses by the firm AlphaValue carried out at the request of Greenpeace and relating to the situation of EDF".

It says that its accounts are audited and certified by its statutory auditors, and that the dismantling costs of EDF's existing nuclear power fleet have also been subject to an audit mandated by the French Ministry of the Environment, Energy and the Sea.

Even with its huge debts, EDF's problems could be surmounted if the company was making big profits on its electricity sales, but the cost of producing power from its nuclear fleet is frequently greater than the wholesale price.

That creates a second problem − that unless the wholesale price of electricity rises and stays high, the company will make a loss on every kilowatt of electricity it sells.

The new right-wing French presidential candidate, François Fillon, promises not to retire French reactors and to keep them going for 60 years. But this cannot be done without more cost.

This is the third problem: vast sums of capital are needed to refurbish EDF's old nuclear fleet for safety reasons following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

New nuclear stations

Even more money is required to finish new nuclear stations EDF is already committed to building. The first, Flamanville in northern France, is five years late and billions over budget. Questions over the quality of the steel in its reactor are still not resolved, and it may never be fully operational.

Add to that the need for €12 billion capital to complete the two nuclear stations EDF is committed to building at Hinkley Point in southwest England, and it is hard to see where all the money will come from.

To help the cash-strapped company, its ultimate owner, the French state, has already provided €3 billion in extra capital this year, and decided to forego its shareholder dividend. But that is a drop in the ocean.

Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based independent international consultant on energy and nuclear policy, says: "The French company overvalues its nuclear assets, and underestimates how much it will cost to decommission them.

"However, EDF's biggest problem is the cost of producing power from these aging power stations. The cost is greater than the wholesale price, so everything they sell is at a loss. It is impossible to see how they can ever make a profit."

He says that is not the company's only problem: France has not dealt with the problem of nuclear waste, and has badly underestimated the cost of doing so.

Schneider says: "With German electricity prices going down and production increasing in order to export cheap electricity to France, it is impossible to see how EDF can ever compete. It is really staggering that no one is paying any attention to this."

Even former EDF director Gérard Magnin agrees. He resigned from the board in July as he thought the Hinkley Point project too risky for the company because of its already stretched finances. Now he says that, with the reactors closed for safety checks, the French nuclear industry faces "its worst situation ever".3

The company's troubles do not stop in France, as EDF also owns the UK nuclear industry. Ironically, it took over 15 reactors in the UK after British Energy went bankrupt in 2002 because the cost of producing the electricity was greater than the wholesale price4 − exactly the situation being repeated now in France.

Repeated life extensions

Since the sale of UK nuclear plants to EDF in 2008 at a cost £12.5 billion5, the company has continued to operate them, and has repeatedly got life extensions to keep them running.

But this cannot go on forever, and they are expected to start closing in the next 10 years. Once this happens, the asset value of each station would become a liability, and EDF's mountain of debt would get bigger.

So far, the French and UK governments, and the company itself, seem to be in denial about this situation. Although 17 French reactors are currently shut down for safety checks, the company has issued reassuring statements that they will be back to full power after Christmas.

Meanwhile, to make up the shortfall from the closed reactors, electricity is being bought from neighbouring countries to keep the lights on in France, temporarily causing an increase in wholesale prices. The future remains unpredictable − but as long as there are no actual power cuts, no action is expected from governments.

Despite official denials, the calculations of many outside the industry suggest that it is only a matter of time before disaster strikes.

The cost of producing electricity from renewables is still falling, while nuclear gets ever more expensive, and massive liabilities loom. Ultimately, the bill will have to be passed on to the taxpayers.

Reprinted from Climate News Network,







UK nuclear program - not dead yet as government tries to save face

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Pete Roche

The Times reported on July 15, that, according to “well placed industry sources”, EDF Energy wants a subsidy of £2.8 billion (US$3.6bn or 3.5bn euro) a year for the next 25 years to build two new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset, England at a cost of £14 billion. The French, mostly state-owned company, will only build the two European Pressurised Water Reactors (EPRs) with huge subsidies, paid for through fixed levies on electricity bills.

In May the UK Government published a Draft Energy Bill see (Nuclear Monitor 750, June 1) which details plans for so-called Electricity Market Reform. The proposals include the introduction of a complicated support mechanism for low carbon electricity called “Contract for Difference” (CfD). Basically if the market price for electricity falls below a guaranteed “strike price” the nuclear or renewable energy operator would be paid the difference, but would also have to pay money back if the electricity price goes above the strike price. The Government doesn’t expect the Energy Bill to be passed into legislation until towards the end of next year, and strike price rates won’t be finalized until then.  However, under the terms of the draft Bill, the government can issue a likely strike price in advance of formalizing the rate and introducing CfD in 2014.

EDF Energy and its junior partner Centrica want to make their final investment decision on Hinkley before the end of 2012. So talks have begun between the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the two companies to provide them with some firmer guarantees in order to make sure plans for Hinkley Point go ahead. With RWE and E.ON having recently dropped their UK nuclear plans, EDF Energy has the Government over a barrel, and will no doubt be telling DECC what strike price it wants before going ahead – in effect writing its own subsidy cheque from the electricity consumer.

According to The Times, EDF says it needs about £165 per megawatt hour (£/MWh), almost four times the existing wholesale price of electricity, if it is to go ahead. This works out at a subsidy of £68 billion over 25 years, or an average of about £50 extra a year on every household bill. 

Let’s not forget that the Coalition Agreement between the Tories and Liberal Democrats pledged to not subsidize nuclear power.(1) Despite this, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Liberal Democrat Ed Davey, now seems to be prepared to agree a high strike price with the nuclear industry, whilst pretending the Government is not planning to subsidize dangerous new reactors at all.

The Times says the Government has warned EDF Energy, and its junior partner Centrica, that nuclear power subsidies must be lower than offshore wind power, but EDF is arguing that the giant new offshore wind projects planned for the North Sea will cost £180/MWh, making nuclear slightly cheaper. In fact currently under the UK Renewables Obligation, offshore windfarms now being installed are being paid around £135 per MWh. According to senior lecturer on Energy Policy at Birmingham University, David Toke, EDF has been forced to come clean on nuclear costs, so now it is making dubious claims about offshore wind.(2) A Government and Industry taskforce set up to reduce offshore wind costs says offshore wind costs can be reduced to £100/MWh by 2020.(3)

Ed Davey says “nuclear will not receive a higher price than comparable gene-ration technologies whether they be renewables or indeed gas generation once its emissions have been abated by carbon capture and storage.”(4) If it is more expensive to get electricity from new nuclear power stations than offshore wind then the government’s commitment to nuclear will become dif-ficult to maintain – we might as well just build more offshore wind farms.(5)

Toke asks “will the British Treasury sign off on this plan to increase average British electricity prices by 8 per cent for 25 years to produce 6 per cent of UK electricity from nuclear power?” The Government claims that energy bills will have to go up whatever we do. Its answer to this was supposed to be The Green Deal. But this now looks incre-asingly unlikely to deliver the savings to consumers promised. The plan is to offer Green Deal loans of up to £10,000 to help consumers insulate their homes and reduce fuel bills, but the interest charged will be at the usual rate of around 7.5%. So consumers will have to spend £22,000 to pay the loan back over 25 years requiring households to deliver energyefficiency savings of £900 a year to cover the cost of annual loan repayments.(6)

In contrast, in Germany, where nuclear power is being phased out by 2022, loans at very low interest rates of 1-2%, have helped insulate over 2m homes, employing 200,000 people a year in the process, and German homeowners can borrow up to €75,000 to give them a very cosy and efficient home indeed. (7)

Greenpeace and WWF wrote to The Times pointing out that the costs of nu-clear power are going up not down. The EPRs at Flamanville and Olkiluoto are now £2.7 billion and £2.6 billion over-budget respectively. The huge subsidy of £2.8 billion per year being sought for two reactors at Hinkley was in stark contrast to another fight within Whitehall over levels of support for onshore wind power with the Treasury pushing for a reduction in support for wind power that would save less than £20 million per year. (8) (The Treasury lost the battle, but only after DECC made concessions on gas).

EDF denied that it was negotiating for a strike price of £165/MWh. It said it expects to reach a transparent agreement with the Government that is fair and balanced. It will show that nuclear is affordable and cost-competitive. (9) The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) said “if it were true, the figure of £165/MWH would make new nuclear virtually untenable. Fortunately, it is not true. Ra-ther, it is spectacular speculation.” (10) But NIA does not speculate on what the real price might be.

The cost of the EPR being built at Flamanville, has already doubled to €6 billion (about £4.5 billion) from €3 billion and the project is four years behind schedule. Flamanville-3 is the reference design for the UK EPR. At £5 billion, Ian Jackson of Chatham House estimates that EDF would need £91.50/MWh just to break even on a Hinkley Point reac-tor. In addition to breaking even, EDF is expecting to earn a return on its invest-ment which would bump the final strike price up to about £148/MWh. Other analysts, notably Peter Atherton of Ci-tibank, have publicly projected a strike price of between £150 and £200/MWh.(11) The Financial Times says a person close to the negotiations on the level of government support energy companies should receive reckons that EDF Energy and Centrica will need a price of at least £100/MWh – more than double the present wholesale power price of about £41/MWh – to justify the huge investment needed in new nuclear plants. He said the upper limit of any such support would be about £130-£140/MWh – the cost of electricity generated by offshore wind farms. “If you can’t do [nuclear] for that price, then you might as well build more wind farms”. (12)

David Toke says the Government could hardly set the strike price any higher than £100/MWh because this is the figure the Treasury wants offshore wind power to come down to. This would be a soft landing for a policy retreat. The Government may say that £100/MWh is profitable for nuclear power, but it is unlikely to lead to any being built. Lots of rumors, hopeful stories, yes, because the British Government (and the nuclear industry) does not want to admit that nuclear power is a dead duck.(13) 

The latest news is that the chief execu-tive of General Electric, has described nuclear power as so expensive com-pared with other forms of energy that it has become “really hard” to justify. (14) And now EDF says it is considering looking for more partners for its UK nuclear projects to help it share costs and limit its debt burden – an admission perhaps that French state owned industry is no longer able to afford the huge nuclear costs on its own.(15)

(1) Spinwatch, 22 May 2012
(2) David Toke’s Green Energy Blog, 16 July 2012
(3) Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Task-force Report, June 2012 www.bwea. com/pdf/publications/Offshore_Task_ Force_Report.pdf 
(4) Liberal Democrat Voice, 20 April 2012
(5) Left Foot Forward, 18 July 2012 
(6) Business Green, 17 July 2012 www. (7) Guardian, 24 May 2012 www. 
(8) The Times, 18 July 2012 www. 
(9) The Times, 19 July 2012 www.
(10)NIA Blog,  18 July 2012
(11) i-Nuclear, 19 July 2012  
(12) Financial Times, 23 July 2012 www. 8700-00144feabdc0.html 
(13) David Toke’s Blog, 24 July 2012 http://realfeed-intariffs.blogspot. 
(14) FT, 30 July 2012 00144feab49a,Authorised=false.html 
(15) Reuters, 31 July 2012 www.reuters. com/article/2012/07/31/edf-results-idUSL6E8IV2LX20120731

Contact: Pete Roche
Email: rochepete8[at]


Safety upgrades to ensure safety French reactors

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

French authorities have laid out the improvements they want to see from the country's nuclear operators to ensure safety in case of extreme natural disasters. EdF (Electricite de France), operator of the country's 58 nuclear reactors, has six years to complete about 10 billion euros (US$12 billion) of measures to upgrade safety. Autorité de sûreté nucléaire, the French regulator, published the requirements for the industry in January and published the details on June 28.

The extensive measures to improve nuclear safety described by the Nuclear Safety Authority (Autorité de sûreté nucléaire, ASN) on June 28, affect the operations of  three organisations: EDF, which operates 58 large re-actors at 19 nuclear sites; Areva, which has fuel cycle facilities; and the CEA, which operates fuel and research facilities. 

The meltdown in Fukushima last year sparked a debate about the reliance on nuclear energy in France, which gets more than 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, the most in the world. In January, Autorité de sûreté nucléaire published a 524-page report on the sate of nuclear reactors in France. The report says that government-controlled power provider EDF needs to make significant upgrades "as soon as possible" to it's reactors in order to protect them from potential natural disasters. The ASN gave reactor operators until June 30 to deliver proposals meeting the enhanced safety standards of sites they run. ASN on June 28 published deadlines for measures including employing equipment such as diesel generators and bunkered control rooms, and guarding against flooding. EDF said it had "already initiated a plan of action" to comply with the requirements of the ASN.

An estimate by stateowned EDF that the measures will cost about 10 billion euros "is not improbable," Andre-Claude Lacoste, chairman of ASN told reporters. 
While safety must be "more robust," France's nuclear operators don't need to immediately shut sites, Lacoste said.

As well as thoroughly analysing external risks to nuclear facilities during planning and licensing, the operators of nuclear facilities "must be prepared to mitigate events beyond anything ever conside-red likely". 

Some 32 decisions were made on this basis by ASN, translating into 30 new regulatory requirements across the enti-rety of French nuclear infrastructure. In general, what the ASN wants in nuclear facilities is a 'hard core' of systems at each facility that are "incredibly robust and will provide essential safety services during even the most extreme circumstances."

Diesel generators for backup power have to be deployed between 2016 and the end of 2018 and bunkered control rooms and rapid response teams with specialized equipment by the end of 2014.

"No one can ever guarantee that a nuclear accident will never happen in France," Lacoste said. "We may need 10 years to completely understand what hap-pened at Fukushima." 

A 'rapid reaction force' of a different kind. French regulators have come to the conclusion that "despite the precautions taken, accidents can never be excluded." But if accidents can never be excluded, despite all precautions, then adding even more precautions does not eliminate the possibility of catastrophic releases of radioactive materials into the surrounding environment.
So prevention is only one half of the equation; the other half is coping with the consequences when things get truly out of hand. 

What is needed is a large and powerful team of experts and decision-makers outside the nuclear establishment whose sole responsibility is to provide maximum protection to living things beyond the perimeters of the afflicted nuclear facilities. This team would be dominated not by nuclear physicists and engineers but by specialists in the biomedical and environmental sciences, including agriculture, marine biology, and food sciences. These people would have the determining voice in all matters relating to the population and the environment -such as evacuation strategies; food monitoring; crop and livestock protection and monitoring; measures to minimize the spread of contamination through shoes, hair and clothing; strategies for protecting wildlife; offsite disposition of contaminated water from the stricken facilities....

EDF is also to put in place a 'rapid reaction force' of experts and engineers that can be deployed on short notice to any of its power plants around the country (see box above). They should be capable of 'intervening' during an emergency that involves several reactors at one site. The force should be in place by the end of this year and fully operational by late 2014. The company must also bring in enhanced training of its key staff to respond to major earthquakes and severe accidents.

Presenting nearly 1,000 recommendations aimed at securing French reactors, ASN chief Jean-Christophe Niel - Executive Director for Operations of ASN said: "A lot of people think that Fukushima is behind us, in fact it's ahead of us."

Sources: Bloomberg, 28 June 2012 / GlobalPost, 29 June 2012 / World Nuclear News, 29 June 2012.
Contact: Reseau Sortir du nucleaire, 9 rue Dumenge, 69317 LYON cedex 04, France.
Email: contact[at]
Tel: +33 4 7828 2922

Sortir du Nucleaire

Don't Nuke the Climate: Help EDF win the Pinocchio greenwashing award

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Organised by Friends of the Earth France, in partnership with the CRID and Peuples Solidaires-Action Aid France, the Pinocchio Awards highlight the negative impacts of multinational companies – either through lobbying tactics at a policy level, or directly at a community level – and especially those that indulge in greenwashing.

This year, as Paris hosts the international climate talks (COP21), the Pinocchio Climate Awards joins forces with the Worst Lobby Awards, from Friends of the Earth Europe and Corporate Europe Observatory to bring a special edition: the Pinocchio Climate Awards.

This year's awards will target multinationals whose activities have a direct impact on the climate and communities around the world, and whose influence, through lobbying, promoting false solutions or greenwashing weakens or destroys climate policies, or undermines action on climate change.

The three worst companies, across three categories, are chosen through an online public vote, and presented with the award at a public awards ceremony.

The French energy company EDF is one of the nominees … so get voting! Online voting started on November 3 and will be open until December 2. The awards will be presented at a public awards ceremony on December 3.

EDF is using its controversial sponsorship of the COP21 climate talks to launch a large-scale greenwashing campaign to brand nuclear power as a 'carbon-free' and 'clean' energy source. EDF presents itself as 'the official partner of a low-carbon world'. The company is planning a series of conferences and symposia to promote the 'role of electricity in decarbonising the world'. It is also funding a 'call for projects' for non-profit organisations with green projects with a positive impact for the climate.1

However EDF is not planning to shed any of its considerable global investments in coal and other fossil fuels, nor is it preparing any significant strategic shift towards energy efficiency or renewables. Its main concern is propping up its increasingly compromised nuclear business. EDF, 84% owned by the French state, is strong on nuclear and fossil energy, but weak on renewables.

On its website EDF claims that 87% of the electricity it produces in the world is 'CO2-free'.2 In France, according to EDF, the figure is 98%. But that is not because the company is a pioneer of green energy. Renewable energy sources are still very marginal in its global electricity mix, at about 2%. In France, it is only 0.2% (excluding large dams). The main basis for EDF's claim is its huge stake in nuclear power, of which it is the top global producer, with plants in France, the UK, the US, Belgium and China.

EDF runs a fleet of 16 coal power plants globally, including some of the dirtiest in Europe. In 2013, it was rated among the top 20 global multinational emitters of greenhouse gases.3

After a complaint made by the French antinuclear network Sortir du nucléaire and some local groups, an official advertising ethics body in France recently issued a damning opinion on a public advertising campaign launched by EDF in Alsace, the French region where the company is fighting against the planned closure of its 37 years old Fessenheim nuclear plant, the oldest in France. The adverts said that the electricity provided by EDF in Alsace was '100% without CO2 emissions' – which the ethics body found was deliberately misleading consumers about the true nature of nuclear energy and its environmental impacts.4

Sortir du nucléaire and its partners have now lodged a second complaint, taking aim at EDF's claim that it is providing 98% carbon-free electricity in France. The hearing will take place on 11 December 2015, and then the ethics body will have two weeks to rule on the complaint.5

So what does EDF really want? In France, its current agenda is to extend the lifetime of its existing plants – most of them approaching 40 years old and plagued with recurring safety issues. This could cost up to one hundred billion euros. That money should be invested in building the long-term sustainable energy system that France needs. That's no pipedream: a 2015 report by ADEME, a French government agency under the Ministries of Ecology and Research, shows that 100% renewable electricity supply by 2050 in France is feasible and affordable.6

Between its huge stakes in fossil fuels and its investment in false solutions such as nuclear, EDF can hardly claim to be an official partner of a "low-carbon world". If it had its way, France and the world would remain stuck in a future of climate chaos, nuclear risk and escalating energy costs.

Source and contact:




3. Thomson Reuters:



6. Terje Osmundsen, 20 April 2015,

L'Agence de l'Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l'Energie (ADEME), 2015, 'Vers un mix électrique 100% renouvelable en 2050',

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

World Nuclear Association scales back projections
A new World Nuclear Association (WNA) report, 'The Global Nuclear Fuel Market: Supply and Demand 2013-2030', revises and reduces the Association's pre-Fukushima projections of nuclear power growth. Compared to current installed capacity of 334 GWe, the WNA projections range from a lower scenario of no net growth, a reference scenario of 72% growth (574 GWe by 2030; 3.0% annual growth) and an upper scenario of two-fold growth (700 GWe in 2030; 4.2% annual growth).

Both the upper scenario and the reference scenario are "significantly lower" than the projections in the WNA's 2011 report. World Nuclear News reports: "The lower projected rate of growth of the nuclear sector in the latest edition of the WNA market report (compared with the 2011 edition) reflects the current and expected increased level of challenges facing utilities aiming to commission new nuclear power plants. These challenges are not only a result of the post-Fukushima calls for the industry to demonstrate higher levels of safety, but also the need to cope with stronger competition from alternative generating technologies at a time of more modest power demand growth expectations."[2]

In the reference scenario, uranium demand would reach 97,000 tU by 2030, from today's level of 62,000 tU. Provided that all uranium mines currently under development enter service as planned, the report finds that the uranium market should be adequately supplied to 2025; beyond this time new mines need to be operating.[2]

The IAEA has recently released its Annual Report for 2012, projecting nuclear power growth of 23% to 100% percent by 2030.[3] As with the WNA, the IAEA has scaled back its nuclear growth projections. The report notes that last year the UAE became the first country in 27 years to break ground on its first nuclear power plant. On the disposal of spent nuclear fuel, the IAEA report notes that most of its 158 member states have delayed the construction of repositories.

Historically, upper scenarios from the WNA and IAEA have always been fanciful, whereas lower scenarios are usually much closer to the mark.

[1] World Nuclear Association, 'The Global Nuclear Fuel Market: Supply and Demand 2013-2030',
[2] World Nuclear News, 12 September 2013, 'Uranium supply and demand in balance for now',
[3] IAEA Annual Report 2012,


France: Energy transition
Launching a two-day conference on France's energy transition, President Francois Hollande reiterated his 2012 election pledge to see nuclear's share of French generation capped at 50% by 2025, and the closure of France's oldest nuclear power plant, Fessenheim, by the end of 2016.[1]

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told the conference that revenue from existing nuclear plants would be earmarked to fund the country's move to an energy mix featuring more renewables. The unspecified nuclear tax would augment a new tax on fossil fuel consumption, expected to amount to one billion euros annually by 2016. [1]

Over 170,000 people have taken part in regional debates concerning the energy transition. Energy minister Philippe Martin has been charged with drawing up a law enshrining the energy transition, to be voted on by the end of 2014.

The move to reduce reliance on nuclear power is contested. A French parliamentary commission recently called on the government to delay the start of the replacement of nuclear power until 2030 and to extend the process to the end of the century (which makes little sense as existing reactors will be shut down long before the end of the century).[2]

Electricite de France SA (EDF) operates 58 power reactors in France. The reactors are on average 27 years old and are spread over 19 sites.[3] In July, the regulator Autorite de Surete Nucleaire said EDF would have to improve safety at its nuclear plants including ensuring spent fuel storage and reactor vessels are secure before it can approve operation 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, ASN said. In April, ASN head Pierre-Franck Chevet said "we are a long way from making a decision" on extensions beyond 40 years.[6]

France's Green party has threatened to withdraw support for the Socialist government over the slow pace of its energy policy initiatives.[4]

French nuclear generation fell to its lowest level in at least six years on June 22−23, after EDF reduced output by around a third to manage oversupply in the grid and prevent prices turning negative for the second consecutive weekend.[5]

Meanwhile, progress is being made at a test facility near the small village of Bure in northeastern France, which the nuclear industry hopes to turn into a repository for intermediate- and high-level nuclear waste. The test facility has been completed at a depth of 480 metres underground. ANDRA − L'Agence nationale pour la gestion des dechets radioactifs − is planning to apply for construction approval for the final disposal site in 2015 for a planned start of construction in 2019. Cost estimates range from 14 billion euros to 55 billion euros. Opponents of the proposal, including some villagers, have prevented residents' debate sessions − a necessary step for obtaining construction approval − from being held. [7,8,9,10]

[1] World Nuclear News, 23 September 2013, 'Nuclear to fund French energy transition',
[2] NucNet, 16 September 2013, 'Commission Calls On French Government To Delay Nuclear Phase-out',
[3] Tara Patel / Bloomberg, 17 May 2013, 'France Must Decide on Energy Mix Before Reactors Close, ASN Says',
[4] Tara Patel / Bloomberg, 22 September 2013, 'France to Tax EDF Nuclear Output for Energy Shift to Renewables',
[5] Argus Media, 24 June 2013,
[6] Tara Patel / Bloomberg, 3 July 2013, 'EDF Must Boost Nuclear Safety to Operate Plants Beyond 40 Years',
[7] Hiroaki Miyagawa, 19 September 2013, 'Test under way at planned nuclear waste disposal site in French village amid protests', The Mainichi,
[8] 'Public comment on French waste disposal', 16 May 2013,
[9] Tara Patel / Bloomberg, 19 June 2013, 'French Nuclear-Waste Repository Debates Postponed by Protesters',
[10] Tara Patel / Bloomberg, 13 June 2013, 'Scariest Atomic-Waste Burial Plan Has French Villages Up in Arms',

EPR: outstanding desing issues

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Pete Roche

In both the Unites States and United Kingdom, the EPR-design is awaiting approval from the nuclear regulatory bodies. A whole list of outstanding issues have to be addressed by EDF and Areva in the UK and in the US, a new revised schedule shows the EPR is unlikely to receive design certification by the nuclear regulator before the end of 2014.

On 14th December 2011 the United Kingdom’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and Environment Agency granted interim Design Acceptance Confirmations (iDACs) and interim Statements of Design Acceptability (iSoDAs) for the UK EPR and the AP1000 reactor designs. The ONR‘s interim approval for the UK EPR came with a long list of caveats – 31 so-called “GDA Issues”.

UK: Generic Design Assessment
Since then EDF and Areva have closed out only one of the 31 “GDA Issues” According to the ONR’s latest Generic Design Assessment (GDA) quarterly report — issued on 24th May for the period ending March 31 — EDF and Areva have fallen substantially behind in the number of responses to the GDA Issue resolution to date. ONR said the shortfalls in deliverables “are having an effect on our progress and on our ability to use the (outside) technical support contractors we had programmed to support our work, as their availability is not always guaranteed when the original assessment dates have been missed.”

The GDA Issue resolution plan Areva and EDF agreed to with ONR called for all GDA Issues to be resolved by November 2012. This will now extend into 2013. Areva and EDF have committed to deploy additional resources and submit a revised GDA Issue resolution plan, but ONR is still waiting to receive it. Building magazine reported in its May 25 issue, that the process is three months behind schedule.

Among the 30 remaining GDA Issues that have yet to be closed is one on the EPR’s control and instrumentation (C&I) system, which was the subject of an unprecedented joint regulatory letter from the UK, France and Finland in 2009. The French safety regulator, the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire, on April 16 removed its reservations about the digital C&I system for the EPR, but the ONR is still waiting for some deliverables due from EDF and Areva on the C&I GDA Issues.

The process of working to close out the 31 “GDA Issues” is leading to some design changes, according to ONR. “We have received a number of modification proposals to amend the EPR design to take account of the solutions proposed to some of the GDA Issues,” ONR said in its latest quarterly report, citing two examples. There are two related design changes to the main coolant loop pipework and both improve the quality of inspection achievable during construction and operation.

US: delay EPR certification
Design certification in the US is also likely to be delayed: the EPR is unlikely to receive design certification by the US nuclear regulator, NRC, before the end of 2014, and even that will “present a challenge”. Design certification for the EPR had earlier been targeted for June 2013. Areva submitted its application for certification of the EPR design in December 2007 aiming to clear the way for reactors of that generic type to be built anywhere in America subject to site-specific licensing procedures and the issue of a combined construction and operating licence (COL). Four COL applications referencing the EPR have already been submitted to the NRC.

The NRC has issued a new review schedule to allow Areva to respond to outstanding technical issues previously raised by the NRC and to provide additional information related to new post-Fukushima requirements issued by the commission in February.

Under the revised schedule, Areva is expected to submit to the NRC, by 30 August 2013, details about how the EPR design meets the post-Fukushima requirements and all outstanding technical issues should be resolved by 1 November 2013.

Matthews told Areva that there is "no margin" in the schedule to allow for the timing of "critical milestones" to be changed and still achieve certification by the end of 2014. He added, "While the staff has increased its attention to meeting the schedule, we will ensure that the design meets all applicable NRC regulatory requirements before we proceed to certification rulemaking."

In July 2010, the NRC highlighted two areas of concern related to the EPR design. These centered on design complexity and independence issues: each safety division within the system must be able to perform its function without relying on data from outside and must also be protected from adverse external influences. Areva needs to demonstrate to the regulator's satisfaction that these issues have been addressed, and show that data exchange between systems will not adversely affect safety.

Areva has already described proposed design changes intended to reduce the level of complexity as well as to address some of the intercommunication issues. However, Areva has notified the NRC of some areas where its feels that design changes are not advisable, and these appear to be the areas which the regulator feels may not meet its standards.

Source: NuClear News No.41, June 2012 / World Nuclear News, 31 May 2012
Contact: Pete Roche
Email: pete[at]


EDF convicted of spying on Greenpeace

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

On November 10, a French court convicted the French state electricity company, Electricité de France SA (EDF), on charges of spying on Greenpeace, fined the company 1.5 million euro, and ordered it to pay 500,000 euros in damages to the environmental organisation for non-material loss.

EDF, Europe’s largest producer of electricity, was charged with complicity in concealing stolen documents and complicity to intrude in a computer network. In 2006, EDF hired a hacker and a private investigator in a “cloak-and-dagger” undercover effort to spy on Greenpeace France’s operations. The spying operation monitored Greenpeace while it challenged plans by the UK government to work with EDF to expand its nuclear operations. The hacking caused the theft of more than 1,400 documents from the computer of the Greenpeace France programme director.

EDF's spying operation monitored Greenpeace while they challenged plans by the UK government to work with EDF to expand its nuclear operations. Clearly worried about this - and losing the nuclear debate in France, EDF somehow decided a cloak and dagger espionage operation was the way to go. In 2006, the company hired private investigation company Kargus Consultants to spy on Greenpeace France. Kargus went too far, and hacked into, then stole 1,400 documents from the computer of Greenpeace France's program director. But they got caught.

The men prosecuted were Pascal Durieux, head of EDF's nuclear safety at EDF in 2006, Pierre-Paul Francois, EDF's second in command of nuclear safety security during the same period; Thierry Lorho, the boss of Kargus, and Alain Quiros, Kargus computer scientist.

This spying scandal and verdict against EDF couldn't have come at a worse time for the global nuclear industry which is reeling from the fallout of the Fukushima disaster. In recent weeks and months countries like Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium have turned their backs on nuclear power. The new generation of nuclear reactors (with which EDF are heavily involved) is years behind schedule, billions over budget, and beset by construction defects and safety concerns.

“The fine against EDF, and the damages awarded to Greenpeace send a strong signal to the nuclear industry that no one is above the law”, said Adélaïde Colin, Greenpeace France communications director. “In the run up to the next presidential elections, this verdict shows that the nuclear industry is not compatible with French democracy. Voters should keep this scandal in mind and try to ensure that the energy issue in France is not taken hostage by the nuclear industry and politicians.”

At present, the four French European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) are being built in Finland, France and China are well behind schedule, hampered by significant construction problems and billions over budget, in the case of EDF’s reactors in Finland, and France.

Source: Greenpeace Press release, 10 November 2011 / Greenpeace blogpost by Justin McKeating, 10 November 2011
Contact: Adélaïde Colin, Greenpeace France Communications Director, Tel: +33 6 84250825


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Belgian phase-out: oldest 3 reactors to close in 2015.
Belgian's political parties have reached a conditional agreement to phase nuclear power by 2025, if they can find an adequate supply of energy from alternative sources by that time. Belgium currently has seven nuclear reactors at two sites, four at Doel in the north, and three at Tihange in the south. The three oldest reactors are set to be shut down by 2015, with the rest taken off the grid by 2025. The agreement confirms a decision taken in 2003, which was shelved during Belgium's political stalemate. The country has been without a federal government for 18 months, after coalition talks repeatedly failed following the elections in April 2010. Belgian's power stations are operated by Electrabel, which is part of French GDF-Suez. The company's share price fell nearly 5 percent on Monday.

Although Belgium had long planned its nuclear exit, public hostility to nuclear power has grown since Japan's nuclear disaster at Fukushima earlier this year.  Belgium will now negotiate with investors to see how it can find new capacity to replace the 5,860 MW that will be lost if the nuclear phase-out goes ahead.
Deutsche Welle, 31 October 2011

EDF delays construction start in UK.
In Nuclear Monitor 735 (October 21, 2011) we published an article called: 'UK nuclear program: companies reconsider investments', in which it was analyzed that even EDF must be having second thoughts about investing in new build in the UK, although (Electricite de France) is the only company that did not express doubts about investing in new nuclear in UK. E.On, RWE, Centrica and SSE (which cancelled investments) all have second thoughts and started internal review processes.

But on October 28, a few days after the publication, EDF decided to delay the construction of the four planned nuclear reactors in the UK, confirming a report from the French Les Echos newspaper. According to the EDF spokeswoman, EDF is taking time to evaluate the consequences of delays at a reactor under construction in Flamanville and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. EDF will release a new calendar for the project during the fall, she said. EDF was planning to start building the first of the planned nuclear rectors in 2013, the newspaper said.

(to be continued…), 28 October 2011

Mexico: natural gas cheaper than nuclear.
Mexico, Latin America’s second-largest economy and one of three Latin American nations that uses nuclear power (the other two being Brazil and Argentina), is abandoning plans to build as many as 10 new reactors and will focus on natural gas-fired electricity plants after boosting discoveries of the fuel. Mexico considered a plan to build as many as 10 nuclear power plants by 2028, according to a CFE presentation. The state company was weighing four investment plans to increase long-term capacity, the most ambitious nuclear plan included building 10 nuclear plants, according to the May 12, 2010 presentation.

The country is “changing all its decisions, amid the very abundant existence of natural-gas deposits,” newly appointed Energy Minister Jordy Herrera said in a November 1 interview. Mexico will seek private investment of about US$10 billion during five years to expand its natural gas pipeline network, he said.

Mexico’s energy ministry plans to update the nation’s long- term strategic plan to reflect the increased importance of gas, Herrera said, with the report due in the first quarter of 2012.

“Until we find a model to make renewable energy more profitable, gas is more convenient,” Herrera said. “The country has very high potential to develop renewable energy,” Herrera added. “But the renewable energy world is hurt by the cheap gas prices. And the government has to consider how much it can spend to promote alternative energy sources.”, 3 November 2011

New IPFM-report on managing spent fuel.
The International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) releases new report: "Managing Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors: Experience and Lessons from Around the World". The report provides an overview of the policy and technical challenges faced by efforts at long-term storage and disposal of spent fuel from nuclear power reactors over the past five decades. It analyzes the efforts to manage and dispose of spent fuel by ten countries that account for more than 80 percent of the world's nuclear power capacity: Canada, Finland, France, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The new report also provides an overview of the technical issues relating to interim storage and transport of spent fuel, geological repositories, and the challenge of the associated international safeguards. The spent fuel from nuclear power reactors, and the high-level wastes produced in the few countries where spent fuel is reprocessed to separate plutonium, must be stored in a manner that will minimize releases of the contained radioactivity into the environment for up to a million years. Safeguards will be required to ensure that any contained plutonium is not diverted to nuclear-weapon use.
A PDF version of the report is available at

2011 edition of Nukespeak published.
On October 4, 2011, Sierra Club Books published the 30th anniversary edition of Nukespeak: The Selling of Nuclear Technology from the Manhattan Project to Fukushima exclusively in e-book format. First published in 1982 in the wake of the first great nuclear plant accident at Three Mile Island, the original edition, written by Stephen Hilgartner, Richard C. Bell, and Rory O’Connor, examined the turbulent history of the nuclear industry, documenting the extraordinary public relations campaign that developers undertook to sell nuclear technology.

Nukespeak is the language of the nuclear mindset — the worldview or system of beliefs of nuclear developers and enthusiasts. The word “Nukespeak” is a  tribute to George Orwell, who in his novel 1984, used the term “Newspeak” as the name of the language of Big Brother and the totalitarian state. Unlike a living language, the state was constantly removing words from common usage, with the ultimate goal to make it (literally) impossible for a citizen to think a seditious thought.

The new 2011 edition, updated by original authors Richard C. Bell and Rory O’Connor, brings the book fully up-to-date, exploring the critical events of the last three decades—including the disaster at Chernobyl, the campaign to re-brand nuclear energy as a “clean, green” solution to global warming, and the still unfolding disaster at Japan’s Fukushima power plant. In addition, the authors argue persuasively that a language of euphemism and distraction continues to dominate public debate about nuclear weapons and nuclear power around the world.
The book can be purchased online at: Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble

Radioactive and toxic mine dumps threaten Johannesburg. The 380 mine dumps and slimes dams in the the South African province Gauteng are causing radioactive dust fallout, toxic water pollution and soil contamination, according to the final draft of a new report by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) on mine residue areas (MRAs). The report was completed in July but is yet to be released. The report warns that if the province doesn’t act, it's capital “Johannesburg will eventually be seen as an old mining town that has reached the end of its working life”, with banks refusing to finance any homes or development near the dumps. Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa by population and the world's largest city not situated on a river, lake, or coastline.

The report found that most MRAs – including mine dumps, waste rocks dumps and water storage facilities – in Gauteng are radioactive “because the Witwatersrand gold-bearing ores contain almost 10 times the amount of uranium in gold. “These radioactive tailings co-exist in these MRAs alongside the iron sulphide mineral pyrite, which reacts in the presence of oxygen and water to form a sulphuric acid solution – the main cause of acid mine drainage,” says the report, Feasibility Study on Reclamation of Mine Residue Areas for Development Purposes: Phase II Strategy and Implementation Plan. But it says that the broader issue of “diffuse sources” of pollution represented by the mine dumps and slimes dams and their possible interactions with rainfall, seepage, surface water runoff and shallow groundwater “is possibly more important than the impact of acid mine drainage in Gauteng.

In February, the Saturday Star revealed how the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) had recommended the relocation of residents of Tudor Shaft informal settlement, on an old radioactive mine dump, in Krugersdorp. The report suggests that this NNR ruling is “likely to become a watershed ruling likely to be relevant for a number of other sites” and that high-risk informal settlements will need to be relocated to minimise human health risks.
Saturday Star (South Africa), 5 November 2011

Confidential EDF documents show possible accident risks EPR

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

On 27 September, 2010, the French anti-nuclear network Sortir du nucléaire received internal EDF documents, showing that the design and manufacture of the vessel closure head for the EPR in Flamanville could, in theory lead to a Chernobyl-type accident. Several EDF documents show that the number of welds and the type of steel used in some parts of the reactor vessel may cause leaks. EDF considers that the leaks may, in turn, develop into a Chernobyl-type of accident. The type of steel and welds used are part of the emergency shutdown system of the EPR and cover 89 points of entry into the reactor vessel.

The documents demonstrate that EDF engineers have designed parts of the vessel closure head for the EPR that not only endanger safety but also knowingly violate French law (namely violations of the decree of 12 December 2005 on nuclear pressure equipment) relating to nuclear facilities under pressure.

For Sortir du nucléaire, the conclusion is obvious: in spite of all these issues, EDF persists in a policy that sacrifices security for profits. In view of the catastrophic consequences of an accident, this attitude is unimaginable and unforgivable.

Sortir du Nucleaire is working hard to get all the technical documents translated into English, but summaries are already available. Although much has to be investigated before final conclusions can be drawn, we support Sortir du Nucleaire in exactly this call; let the French safety authorities give full disclosure of all documents and let independent specialists research the issue and come to conclusions. If there is no reason for fear it is in the interest of the French authorities and EDF to follow this route, otherwise there is a clear public interest for full disclosure. EDF has confirmed that the documents are genuine but have also already said that they see no problem; they have taken the theoretic problem into account while building the EPR. 

Summary of documents highlighting EPR weaknesses
The EDF documents reveal the weaknesses in the design and the manufacture of the control rod drive mechanism (CRDM) casing. This complex mechanism enables the emergency shutdown system of the reactor to be activated. The casing for each mechanism is connected to the closure head of the reactor's pressure vessel and contributes to the leak-tightness of the vessel up to a pressure of 155 bars. If one of the casing is weakened, the whole of the reactor's  pressure vessel becomes vulnerable. Sortir du nucleaire comes to three main conclusions

1. Weakness in the welding of the CRDM casing: 4 welds rather than 1
EDF has opted to use 4 welds for the control rod drive mechanism (CRDM) casing of the EPR, whereas only one weld was used for the casing of the CRDM of the 58 French nuclear reactors, in order to minimize the risk of leakage.[i] These four welds constitute a breach of the 12 December 2005 decree on nuclear pressure equipment; the decree states in Appendix 1 (3.3) that "socket welded connections are forbidden."[ii]

However, they are being used for the casings of the CRDM. Yet the EDF is fully aware of the regulations, as it refers to the French regulations having set "a limit on the number of welds."[iii]

A greater number of welds increases the risk of failure of the leak-tightness of the CRDM casing, and this in turn greatly increases the risk of control rod cluster ejection. The consequences of such a failure would be a loss of primary coolant and a real risk of reactor core fusion. According to the EDF's head of nuclear fuels, a control rod cluster ejection can cause a Chernobyl-type accident.[iv]

The risk of rupture of any of the mechanisms' casing in the head of the EPR pressure vessel is multiplied by the number of mechanisms penetrating the vessel head (89), in other words there are 89 weakness sites.

2. Weakness in the stainless steel used in the CRDM casing: a steel which doesn't stand the test of time
The central part of the CRDM casing used for the EPR will be made of martensitic stainless steel which becomes brittle when exposed to heat. This type of stainless steel can fracture without warning, a well-known fact.[v]

In view of its fragility, martensitic stainless steel is not suitable for pressurized equipment in the main primary circuit of a nuclear reactor. And yet this is what EDF plans to do, in full knowledge of the risks: the EDF document points out that "small errors of temperature or functioning time have a big impact on the behavior of these hardened steels".[vi]

This is the second time that there is a breach of regulations for equipment that is crucial to the safety of the EPR. This is a breach of the 12 December 2005 decree on nuclear pressure equipment which stipulates that "the ratio between elastic limit at ambient temperature and resistance to traction at ambient temperature must not exceed 0.85 for martensitic steels".[vii]

The decree states that these are "essential safety requirements for nuclear pressure equipment". EDF engineers are fully aware of this: "Using this type of steel for pressurized equipment in the main primary circuit has always been prohibited in any nuclear reactor. Its use for EPR mechanisms has therefore come under scrutiny, particularly since this steel does not meet the NPE (Nuclear Pressure Equipment) criteria stipulating that the ratio between elastic limit at ambient temperature and resistance to traction at ambient temperature must not exceed 0.85.[viii]

The use of this type of stainless steel increases the risk of sudden rupture of the CRDM casing and control rod cluster ejection. Such a rupture would cause a loss of primary coolant and a real risk of fusion of the nuclear core. According to the EDF's head of nuclear fuels, a control rod cluster ejection can cause a Chernobyl-type accident.[ix]

As said, the risk of fracture of the stainless steel casing of one of the mechanisms in the head of the EPR pressure vessel is multiplied by the number of mechanisms penetrating the vessel head (89), in other words there are 89 weakness sites.

3. Weakness due to the lack of mechanism preventing control rod cluster ejection
The welding weaknesses of the CRDM and the type of steel used in their casing increase the risk of ejection of the control rod cluster. According to a memo written by EDF's head of  nuclear fuels in 2001,[x] ejection of the control rod cluster could cause a Chernobyl-type accident: "The Chernobyl accident in 1986 was due to uncontrolled reactivity, leading to core melt and explosion. Until then, only a few calculations had taken into account this type of accident. The Three Miles Island accident (sic) had already raised this problem. At the time, I took part in an intercompany working group looking at this issue, to carry out a risk analysis of such an accident for our PWRs (Pressurized Water Reactor). Reactivity accidents could occur when the reactor is running at full power. A rupture in the winch or the vessel head could cause one or several of the control rod clusters to be ejected."[xi]

What follows reveals that a Chernobyl-type reactivity accident could happen in any French nuclear reactor: "During such an accident, the fuel close to the ejected control rod will suddenly become very reactive. It is likely to reach very high reactivity values. This power excursion may cause the rupture of  the casing, and a fuel pellet explosion, with uranium dispersing into the main circuit water. This could be followed by a steam explosion. If not controlled, a steam explosion produces a huge amount of energy likely to rupture the pressure vessel."[xii]

Finally, according to the same document, a locking device for the rod cluster control ejection would limit the risk of reactivity accident[xiii]. Yet not locking device for rod cluster control ejection has been planned for the EPR[xiv].

EDF's head of nuclear fuels suggests at the end of his memo: "Ideally, we should try not to take into account this type of accident when planning future reactors"[xv].

[i] Doc n°2 Synthèse des choix de conception des mécanismes de commande, 5.1. Modification et contrôle des soudures p.11-12, F.Odier, EDF-SEPTEN, (08.12.2008).
[ii] Arrêté du 12 décembre 2005 relatif aux équipements sous pression nucléaires
[iii] Doc n°2 Synthèse des choix de conception des mécanismes de commande, 5.1 Modification et contrôle des soudures p.11-12, F.Odier, EDF-SEPTEN, (08.12.2008).
[iv] Doc n°3 Management des activités Physique des Coeurs et Combustibles, p.112 EDF-SEPTEN, A. Berthet (20.12.2001).
[v] "Suite à des constats sur site de fragilisations et de ruptures brutales de tiges de vanne en aciers inoxydables martensitiques", Doc n°4 Note de synthèse sur le vieillissement des aciers martensitiques, III.1, p.9, EDF-Direction Production Ingénierie (08.08.06).
[vi] Doc n°4 Note de synthèse sur le vieillissement des aciers martensitiques, III.3, p.11, EDF-Direction Production Ingénierie (08.08.06).
[vii]Arrêté du 12 décembre 2005 relatif aux équipements sous pression nucléaires, annexe 1, point 4.
[viii] Doc n°2 Synthèse des choix de conception des mécanismes de commande, 5.4, p.12-13, EDF-SEPTEN (08.12.2008).
[ix] Doc n°3 Management des activités Physique des Coeurs et Combustibles, p.112 EDF-SEPTEN, André Berthet (20.12.2001). [x] Doc n°3 Management des activités Physique des Coeurs et Combustibles, p.112 EDF-SEPTEN, André Berthet (20.12.2001).
[xi] Id.
[xii] Id.
[xiii] Doc n°3 Management des activités Physique des Coeurs et Combustibles, p.115 EDF-SEPTEN, A. Berthet (20.12.2001).
[xiv] L'EPR sous pression, p.4, document anonyme reçu en septembre 2010.
[xv] Doc n°3 Management des activités Physique des Coeurs et Combustibles, p.115 EDF-SEPTEN, A. Berthet (20.12.2001).

List of EDF documents:

  • Document 1: L'EPR sous pression (EPR under pressure), p.4, anonymous document received in September 2010.
  • Document 2 : Synthèse des choix de conception des mécanismes de commande, F.Odier, EDF-SEPTEN, (08.12.2008).
  • Document 3 : Management des activités Physique des Coeurs et Combustibles, EDF-SEPTEN, A. Berthet (20.12.2001).
  • Document 4 : Note de synthèse sur le vieillissement des aciers martensitiques, III.1, p.9, EDF-Direction Production Ingénierie (08.08.06).

Link to EDF documentation and detailed analysis (in French):
More information about all problems of EPR:

Source and contact: Sortir du Nucleaire, 9 rue Dumenge, 69317 LYON cedex 04, France.

Sortir du Nucleaire

CE pulls out of Calvert Cliffs-3 leaving EDF & EPR in the lurch

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

In many ways, Calvert Cliffs-3 was the flagship of the U.S. nuclear renaissance. In the summer of 2007, it became the first reactor to submit even a partial application for a construction/operating license from the NRC in more than 30 years. The company created to build and operate the reactor -UniStar Nuclear- was a combination of giants in the nuclear industry: Constellation Energy (CE) and Electricite de France (EdF), using the most modern reactor design available, the EPR from Areva.

Calvert Cliffs-3 would be built on a site already hosting two reactors and the idea received enthusiastic support from local officials, as well as nearly every statewide public official in Maryland -Democrats and Republicans alike. It would be located in a region with a booming economy that was projecting serious future shortfalls in electricity demand. It had come up with an innovative financing scheme to eliminate financial risk: 100% financing from U.S. and French taxpayers coupled with a protective layer of seven Limited Liability Corporations between the reactor itself and the parent companies.

What could go wrong? As it turned out, just about everything.

When Constellation announced late on Friday, October 8 -through a deliberate leak to the Washington Post- that it was pulling out of the Calvert Cliffs-3 project despite having just been offered only the second taxpayer loan for a new nuclear reactor, the reason given was the conditions attached to that loan. Constellation complained that the upfront cost of the loan -US$880 million for a US$7.5 billion (5,4 billion euro) loan, or less than 12%, was too high. And a second proposal from DOE -to cut the upfront fee to US$300 million if UniStar would simply promise to actually complete the reactor and guarantee it would sell 75% of its electricity, was “onerous.”

Really? The profit margin on a US$10+ billion reactor (UniStar earlier had received a promise of US$2.9 billion from COFACE, the French Export-Import Bank) designed to operate at least 60 years is so narrow that US$300 million would kill the deal? Not likely.

In fact, NIRS had predicted the demise of Calvert Cliffs-3 two months earlier for a bevy of reasons -none related to “onerous” loan conditions- in a lengthy post on DailyKos August 5, 2010. If you want a full explanation of the reasons, you can read the post here.

Briefly, the Calvert Cliffs-3 project collapsed because of a combination of factors, including soaring construction cost estimates; a large drop in electrical demand due to the ongoing recession and the institution of new energy efficiency programs; plummeting natural gas prices; continued revelations of EPR design deficiencies coupled with alarm over the horrific experience of EPR construction in Finland and France; determined opposition from opponents like NIRS; and unforeseen competition from renewable energy sources, especially offshore wind.

Indeed, it may only be coincidence, but almost immediately after Constellation’s announcement, a consortium led by Google announced it would spend US$5 billion to build transmission lines to bring thousands of megawatts of offshore wind power from the mid-Atlantic coast to the mainland. Earlier in the year, a small offshore wind company, Bluewater Wind, which already has received permission to build hundreds of megawatts off the Delaware coast and is seeking approval for larger projects off the coasts of Maryland and New Jersey, was bought by energy giant NRG Energy -bringing a deep-pockets competitor to Constellation’s service area.

Constellation could see the writing on the wall, and began to shift gears. With an option, contained in the contract when EDF purchased 49.9% of Constellation’s five existing reactors to bail out the company from bankruptcy (and Warren Buffett, who almost certainly would have ended the UniStar project) in 2008, to force EDF to buy a handful of ancient coal and gas plants scattered around the U.S. for US$2 billion, Constellation saw another possible future.

Those old plants are worth only about US$500 million combined. Forcing EDF to buy them for US$2 billion would leave US$1 billion plus in profit. Constellation put in a bid to buy a fleet of much more modern gas plants in New England. This would allow it to become a regional electricity powerhouse (three of Constellation’s existing reactors are in the region), and it wouldn’t even have to go into debt to do so. At this writing, Constellation has not yet exercised this “put” option, and is apparently still negotiating with EDF on the issue, but Constellation’s intent is clear.

EDF reacted to Constellation’s announcement it was leaving the project with what appeared to be genuine surprise -although anyone following the investment community’s advice, which was generally consistent in opposing Constellation’s continued involvement in Calvert Cliffs-3, shouldn’t have been shocked. Constellation’s stock went up the first week of trading after its announcement.

In any case, EDF is scrambling to resurrect the project. In an October 13 letter to Constellation, it offered “to shoulder 100% of the risk and burden until construction begins.” Alternatively, the letter said, “EDF is prepared immediately to purchase all of Constellation’s 50% interest in UniStar at fair market value…” But, EDF said Constellation would have to agree not to exercise its US$2 billion “put” option.

Constellation responded immediately, saying it would be happy to sell its share of UniStar -including the land for the reactor- for US$1, plus repayment of US$117 million it has invested in the project. But it said the “put” option was a separate issue.

That should give some idea of the value Constellation believes a new nuclear reactor in a deregulated market like Maryland’s holds -essentially zero.

For EDF to rescue the project, it would have to find another utility to take at least 50% of it -the U.S. Atomic Energy Act prohibits “foreign ownership, control or domination” of a U.S. reactor, and thus EDF could not even get a license to build a reactor. NIRS is already in litigation on this issue in the NRC’s license hearing process; we have charged that the Constellation/EDF UniStar structure is illegal under the Atomic Energy Act, even without additional involvement from EDF. For the moment, at least, that hearing process continues.

And what utility would be crazy enough to take on a US$10 billion+ project in a deregulated electricity market when the largest utility already in that market has been intimately involved with the project for years, and has determined that it is simply far too economically risky to undertake?

Meanwhile, the effects of the Calvert Cliffs case extend far beyond Maryland. Originally, EDF and Constellation had teamed up to build four EPRs in the U.S., with an eye toward additional expansion after that. The collapse of Calvert Cliffs certainly ends the UniStar project to build at Nine Mile Point in New York. An EPR proposed for Missouri, with UniStar involvement, was cancelled last year. And an EPR proposed for Pennsylvania, which even the plant’s owner PPL admits on its website would cost US$13-15 billion for a single reactor -the highest cost acknowledged to date by a U.S. Utility- appears to be on life support.

EDF’s -and the French government’s- dreams of becoming a major player in the U.S. nuclear energy future appear dashed. For its part, Areva now has no orders for reactors in the U.S. and has at least temporarily abandoned plans to build a reactor component plant in Virginia to serve what it once thought would be a growing U.S. market.

But it’s not only EDF, Areva and the French government that are being left behind by the new electricity realities in the U.S. The reactor project that actually got in the first entire application to the NRC -NRG’s South Texas Project- is also in trouble, for many of the same reasons. It too wants a loan from the Department of Energy, and presumably at less cost than offered to Calvert Cliffs. But it too operates in a deregulated market, faces increased cost estimates (one partner, the City of San Antonio, already essentially dropped out of the project due to soaring projected costs), issues of foreign ownership and control, and enormous competition from natural gas and wind power (Texas is already the U.S. leader in wind power). On October 19, NRG CEO David Crane told Associated Press that if natural gas prices are expected to stay low, NRG won’t build South Texas even if they receive a taxpayer loan. And gas prices are expected to stay very low for the foreseeable future.

Source and contact: Michael Marriott at NIRS Washington

Shares and nuclear power. After the news that Constellation Energy Group Inc had cancelled plans to build at third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs in, the companys share price rose by 15 cents to ÚS$32.50. Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic, EdF - the largest shareholder in the Constellation Group - saw its share price fall by 3.4 per cent on the news (the share price is down 27 per cent this year).

Source: Greenpeace Nuclear Reaction, 14 October 2010


Hinkley Point Blockaded

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Stop Nuclear Power Network (SNPN)

On Monday 4 October 2010, activists from the Stop Nuclear Network in  the UK blockaded the entrance to Hinkley Point Nuclear Station in Somerset. Hinkley Point is one of the sites where EDF wants to build new nuclear power stations in Britain, and very likely the first one. At present, there are two reactors: Hinkley Point A, which is being decommissioned, and Hinkley Point B, which is still producing electricity.

An eyewitness report: To block traffic onto the site, four activists lay in the road locked-on together using metal and plastic tubes. The action started at 6.30am before the workers shift change could happen. It took a while for the Security and Nuclear Police to respond and when they did they just closed the gate. Not long after that we could hear the public address system going 'lock down lock down lock down', so we had succeeded in disrupting the running of the Station.

By 7am there was a long tail back of workers' cars and delivery trucks, as there is only one road into Hinkley, so they weren't going anywhere. When the local Avon and Somerset police liaison officer arrived he seemed sympathetic to why we were there and asked if we had any demands. Besides shutting down Hinkley B, we did ask to speak with the Manager of Hinkley B and the Manager for the proposed Hinkley C. They eventually arrived, and a slightly heated debate took place over the issues nuclear waste and the proposed building of Hinkley C, being the first EPR Reactors that EDF want to build here in the UK. At 10.30 we decided to end our Blockade which was the first time a action of this type had ever happened at Hinkley and it won't be the last especially if EDF are granted planning permission some time in 2011.

Boycott EDF
Even before EDF has secured planning permission for Hinkley Point C, the company wants to begin with 'enabling works', which has upset the local community. Nikki, a Bridgwater Mum said: "From this autumn on, EDF wants to dynamite and bulldoze 435 acre of green fields - habitats for badgers, bats, and other wildlife, and in close proximity to Bridgwater Bay, which is a sanctuary for thousands of waders, ducks, and other sea birds. It is a joke to think this land could be restored - as EDF claims - should Hinkley C not be built." "If EDF wants to nuke the climate and the planet, the nonviolent resistance is not just an option, but a duty - at Sizewell, and here at Hinkley Point", says Nicola Deane from Suffolk.

To resist EDF's plans for nuclear expansion, not only here at Hinkley Point, but also at Sizewell, Bradwell, Hartlepool, and Heysham, the Stop Nuclear power Network is calling for a boycott of EDF.

The Stop Nuclear Power Network is a UK-based non-hierarchical grassroots network of groups and individuals taking action against nuclear power and its expansion and supporting sustainable alternatives. We encourage and seek to facilitate nonviolent direct action, as well as more conventional forms of campaigning.

A national gathering of the Stop Nuclear Power Network will take place in Bristol on, Saturday 23 to Sunday 24 October. The weekend is to meet people from your region and from around the country who are taking action against nuclear power. Make plans together and build solidarity with people who live next door to Hinkley Point. Crash space available on a dry, warm and quiet floor space. If you need a bed, please get in contact ASAP and we'll try and help you out. Email: nonewnuclear [at]

For more information on the campaign to boycott EDF, see

Source and contact: Stop Nuclear Power Network (SNPN), c/o 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX United Kingdom

Roussely report: saving French nuclear industry with outrageous measures

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

After France's failure to win the contract for four nuclear power plants in the United Arab Emirates, president Sarkozy ordered a report on the French nuclear industry. The outline of the Roussely report (named after Francois Roussely, a former EDF-president), dated June 16, was made public –in French- by the Elysée Palace on 27 July 2010

In the report, author Francois Roussely recognizes the scale of problems facing the French nuclear industry: lack of export competitiveness, falling domestic load factor, delays and cost overruns in EPR construction projects.

French nuclear industry: disastrous economic and industrial results
The Roussely report recognizes the scale of the setbacks experienced by Areva and EDF at the EPR reactor construction sites in France and Finland: “the credibility of both the EPR model and the French nuclear industry's ability to build new reactors has been severely eroded by the difficulties encountered at the Finnish construction site of Olkiluoto and at the site of the third tranche of the Flamanville plant.” At fault is the “complexity of the EPR” which “without doubt hinders its construction and consequently impacts on its cost.”

By stating that “the nuclear industry must become sufficiently competitive to attract private investment”, Roussely admits that the nuclear industry has so far never been competitive nor economically efficient, in contrast with the claims made by Areva, the merchant of nuclear plants. Roussely points out the inadequate performance of the French nuclear reactors: “whereas global average nuclear plant availability has significantly increased during the last 15 years, nuclear plant availability in France has seen a marked decrease in the last few years.”

The failure of the EPR is such, according to Roussely, that “it is the credibility, and therefore the very existence” of the French nuclear industry which is at stake. In the face of this, Roussely uses all available means to recommend various equally outrageous “emergency measures”. 

Passing the cost onto the consumer and misuse of public funding
Roussely recommends “a moderate but regular increase of electricity tariffs, opening the way towards financing the renewal of nuclear installations”. Is nuclear power too costly? That's no problem, the consumer can pay. By becoming "regular", the tariff increase is unlikely to remain "moderate" for any length of time...

Roussely proposes the diversion of some of the funding available for renewable energy to benefit the nuclear industry.

The uranium used in nuclear plants is a finite mineral resource and is non-renewable: nuclear power is a fossil energy as much as oil and coal. Yet Roussely suggests “taking firm political action to ensure that all multilateral funds for renewable energy should also be available to the nuclear industry”.

Savings at the expense of safety
The Roussely report confirms a dangerous trend: the reduction of safety and security requirements in the face of economic constraints: “Continually increasing safety requirements cannot be the only rational way forward”. Roussely calls for the optimal realignment between safety requirements and economic constraints. This politically correct jargon means that safety requirements are governed by the industry’s criteria of profitability and profit. “Safety indeed, but only if we can afford it!”

Nuclear energy is not “attractive enough for private investment”, so the construction of new reactors is not a foregone conclusion. Roussely recommends an increase in the lifespan of French nuclear power stations to 60 years, when they were designed to operate for 30! The oldest French reactors have already experienced incidents far more numerous than the average across nuclear installations as a whole. To pretend they can operate for another 30 years is therefore a high-risk strategy, totally irresponsible. Several hundred million euros would be needed to repair each reactor, which would still be cheaper than the 5 billion required to (maybe) build an EPR. And how much would a major accident like Chernobyl cost, in euros and in human lives?

Given the economic constraints, Roussely gives little thought to the appalling working conditions of the 20,000 external workforce employed by 600 subcontracting firms. Last May, eight temporary workers were forced to go on strike at the CEA site at Carradache: they were not being paid and had to buy their own radioactive protection gear! Yet Roussely only proposes a working conditions “charter”, i.e. a non-binding list of commitments left to the goodwill of companies...

Gagging a cautious French Safety Authority
Roussely calls for a reduction in the scope of the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN) in favor of the government: “the government must define a balanced modus vivendi with the ASN, it must re-establish a sovereignty which it shouldn't relinquish to an independent authority.”  This is clearly a way to reduce the small margin of autonomy available to the official organization controlling the nuclear industry.  

Although very muted, criticisms from the ASN remain an embarrassment for Areva and EDF: “events with very limited effects [i.e. incidents and design errors documented by the ASN] should not result in undeserved suspicion of [nuclear] technology as a whole.”

The Roussely report confirms the fact that the government sees the ASN as a useful alibi, a tool to “reassure” the population. Does the French Safety Authority only have authority in name?

Making nuclear waste acceptable to the public
Roussely admits that “public acceptance [...] is an essential condition for developing the civilian nuclear industry”. Roussely points out that “[nuclear waste] is the most convincing argument against nuclear power for 60 to 70% of French people”.  

Yet there is no solution to the serious problem of nuclear waste, some of which remains dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. Roussely lets slip a telling confession: “a list of realistic specifications” is yet to be drawn up for the nuclear waste burial site at Bure, due to become operational in 2015. So Roussely admits in veiled terms that all the fine words uttered for years by the French National Radioactive Waste Management Agency ANDRA are not “realistic”.

Thus, one shall not be surprised that Roussely is panicking to such an extent that he addresses all the industry's players: “It is now essential that ANDRA determines as a matter of urgency the detailed operational plans being set up for 2015 in relation to the deep disposal centre. To achieve this, it is proposed that ANDRA urgently involves EDF, AREVA and the CEA (French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission) in defining the best possible specifications for the deep disposal center and its completion.”

An English translation of the published summary of the Roussely report is available at:

Source and contact: Sortir du nucleaire, 9, rue  Dumenge, 69317 Lyon Cedex 04, France.

Sortir du Nucleaire

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Russia to invest heavily in Namibia.
Russia is ready to invest US$1-billion in uranium exploration in Namibia. "We're ready to start investing already this year," the head of state corporation Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, told journalists. Rosatom seeks to compete for projects with global miner Rio Tinto in the African country. Earlier in May, Russia and Turkey signed a US$20-billion project for Moscow to build and own a controlling stake in Turkey's first nuclear power plant.

Namibia, the world's fourth-largest uranium producer, is home to the Rossing mine operated by Rio Tinto, which together with Paladin Energy's Langer Heinrich mine accounts for about 10% of global output. Other firms have been joining the exploration drive, with several new mines due to come on stream in the next five years.

Although Russia plans to spent a lot of money on foreign nuclear projects, it is clear that there is not enough money to realize its domestic nuclear program. As described in Nuclear Monitor 707 the number of reactors planned to be built by 2015 will be cut by 60%. And even that number will be hard to build.
Reuters, 20 May 2010

UK: Decommissioning black hole.
The new U.K. Government will have to find an extra £4 billion for decommissioning and waste management at the UK civil nuclear. Energy minister Chris Huhne said: "as you can imagine, this is a fairly existential problem. The costs are such that my department is not so much the department of energy and climate change, as the department of nuclear legacy and bits of other things." He added that there were "genuine safety issues" so the costs could not be avoided. As a result, the Government is considering extending  the life of some of the UK's oldest reactors as a way of raising extra income for decommissioning. Extending the life of the reactors owned by the NDA would raise extra income. The Wylfa reactor on Anglesey, for example, is due to close at the end of the year, but extending its operating life for another two years would mean £ 500 million (US$ 736 million or 598 million euro) in new revenue. The NDA is also considering extending the life of the Oldbury reactor, first opened in 1968. Any application to extend the life of reactors would have to be approved by safety regulators.
N-Base Briefing, 9 and 16 June 2010

France: Subcontractors not in epidemiological surveys.
French antinuclear network 'Sortir du nucléaire' supports nuclear industry subcontractor and whistleblower Philippe Billard. As a spokesperson of the organisation 'Santé / Sous-traitance' (“Health and Subcontracting”), he has undergone some retaliation measures after having denounced workers exposure to radiation. As a  whistleblower, he’s now treated as persona non grata in nuclear power  plants. His employer refuses to re-instate him at his previous job, in  contradiction with the Labour Inspectorate’s recommendations.

The French antinuclear network “Sortir du nucléaire”, considers Philippe Billard’s ousting as a means to put pressure on whistleblower workers. “Sortir du nucléaire”  decided to bring its support to the workers who, just like Philippe Billard, suffer from the unbearable working conditions imposed by the nuclear industry and undergo irradiation without even receiving appropriate health care.

To protect its corporate image, EDF chose to give subcontractors the most dangerous tasks. These people working in the shadows have insecure jobs and are mostly temporary and/or nomad workers. Every year, 25,000 to 30,000 of them are made to carry out tasks where they are exposed to radiations. This system allows EDF to cover up a huge health scandal, since these subcontractors, who get 80% of the annual collective dose from the whole French nuclear park, are not taken into account in epidemiological surveys! (See: Annie Thébaud-Mony, « L’industrie nucléaire organise le non-suivi médical des travailleurs les plus exposés », Imagine, May-June 2007)

EDF is shamelessly multiplying talks on transparency while hushing up workers whistle blowing about the imminent catastrophe. In the ageing French nuclear park, the accident risk is increasing, all the more since maintenance periods are shortened in order to save time and money. However, the official motto remains “Nothing to report” and short-term profits are more important than common safety and security.
Press release 'Sortir du nucleaire', 31 May 2010

Switzerland: Thousands march against nuclear power.
More than 5,000 people gathered in Goesgen, canton Solothurn, in northern Switzerland on May 24, for a peaceful protest against the continuing development of nuclear energy in the country. The protest had participants from 83 groups in Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria. One of their key points was that Switzerland’s nuclear power plans are preventing the rapid development of alternative energy programs. The demonstration was one of the largest in last years.

Another subsidy for Areva in the U.S.
"As part of a broad effort to expand the use of nuclear power in the United States and reduce carbon pollution," the U.S. Department of Energy has approved a US$2 billion loan guarantee for French nuclear power developer Areva S.A. (owned for about 93 percent by the French State). The loan guarantee will support Areva's Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility near Idaho Falls, Idaho, which will supply uranium enrichment services for the U.S. nuclear power industry. Areva's US$3.3 billion nuclear enrichment facility will use centrifuge technology instead of gaseous diffusion technology that is more common in the U.S. but uses more energy. Areva had filed its application for the guarantee with the Department of Energy in September 2008.

The group can tap the guarantee once its Idaho Falls project has received full approval by the authorities. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to decide sometime next year on a licence for the facility. Areva plans to have the plant in operation in 2014. 

The United Stated Enrichment Corporation (USEC) is also seeking a loan guarantee for its American Centrifuge Project under development at Piketon, Ohio. Following DOE's announcement the consensus would seem to be that 'd be bad news for USEC. But according to USEC spokesman Paul Jacobson that is not the case. Jacobson said USEC was encouraged that DOE recognizes the need for more enrichment services to supply the nuclear needs of the future. He also noted that DOE, as noted in the federal agency's press release, still has another US$2 billion in loan authority available. At one time, USEC was going head to head with Areva for the loan guarantees, and USEC played up the foreign-owned company versus domestic company, etc., but now the company -- on the public front at least -- seems to be focused on the nuclear renaissance and the idea that there's enough demand in the U.S. and abroad to support multiple new ventures in the enrichment arena.
U.S. DOE, 20 May 2010 / Reuters, 20 May 2010 / Atomic City Underground, 21 May 2010

EC: investigation non-compete clauses Areva, Siemens.
The European Commission has opened an antitrust case to determine whether non-compete clauses in civil nuclear technology arrangements between Areva of France and Germany's Siemens violate EU competition rules. The opening of antitrust proceedings on June 2, means that the EC thinks the case merits investigation. EC competition spokeswoman Amelia Torres said an investigation was triggered by a complaint from Siemens after Areva took full control last year of reactor construction and services company Areva NP, a joint venture originally set up by Framatome (which later became Areva) and Siemens in 2001. But non-compete clauses between the two companies remain, even though Siemens sold its 34% stake to Areva last year.

The shareholders' pact between Areva and Siemens for Areva NP is not public, but a French official familiar with it confirmed that it forbids either party from competing with the other in businesses covered by Areva NP for eight years after a potential divorce.

Siemens said in January 2009 that it intended to exercise its option, to sell its 34% stake in Areva NP to Areva and leave the joint venture. A few weeks later, Siemens said it had signed a memorandum of understanding on a nuclear power business partnership with Rosatom, a Russian state-owned nuclear conglomerate. After bilateral discussions failed to produce an agreement on the price at which Areva would buy the 34% stake in Areva NP, the erstwhile partners last year asked an arbitration court to decide the matter.

EC competition spokeswoman Amelia Torres said the investigation would be carried out by the EC at EU-level, rather than by national governments. There is no timescale for the investigation as this depends on the complexity of the case and the extent to which the parties cooperate. Torres said she was not able to prejudge whether a fine would be imposed if the arrangement were found to be in breach of competition rules.
Platts, 2 June 2010

U.K.: Waste costs 'not acceptable' for industry.
The nuclear industry has been heavily lobbying to change proposed charges for managing wastes from nuclear reactors. Papers released under Freedom of Information show how the French company EDF pressed the previous government to change the proposed 'high fixed cost' for managing wastes and the timetable for handing the management of wastes to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The previous government made significant changes to the way it proposed changing companies for managing their wastes. It also agreed that responsibility for wastes should pass to the NDA after 60 years instead of the original 110 years. This would reduce the financial liabilities and costs for companies.

EDF told the government the original proposals were "non-acceptable" and made it uneconomic to develop new reactors.
N-Base Briefing 665, 9 June 2010

Chubu delays Hamaoka-5 restart after earthquake.
Japan: The Chubu Electric Power Company has extended the closure of its 1,380-megawatt Hamaoka No.5 reactor by a further two months to the end of July. Chubu Electric said the decision had been taken because the company is still analyzing why the impact of the August 11, 2009 earthquake on the reactor was greater than for other nuclear units. The company explained that, based on this measure of earthquake ground motion, the impact of the tremor was significantly higher than for other reactors. Chubu Electric will report its findings to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. It hopes to restart the reactor after METI and other government  agencies have agreed the report and local communities have consented to the restart of the reactor. The restart of the No. 5 reactor was originally planned for the end of December 2009, but pushed back several times.
Power in Asia 555,  27 May 2010

Bangladesh: cooperation agreement with Russia.
The government of Bagladesh has increased momentum for the installation of the country’s first nuclear power plant. The US$1.5-billion project will be built at Rooppur, about 300 kilometers from the capital Dhaka. A committee headed by the state minister for science and information and communication technology, Yafes Osman, has been constituted to implement the project. The 22-member committee, which has the chairman of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission as its member secretary, will examine funding issues and assess the risks associated with the fiscal arrangements. It will also study nuclear waste management issues. Bangladesh plans to install the 2,000-megawatt plant (for US$1.5billion?) at Rooppur from 2017. It signed a five-year framework cooperation agreement with the Russian atomic energy company Rosatom in May, with the final agreement due to be signed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Moscow later in 2010.
Power in Asia 555, 10 June 2010

Go-ahead for Urenco's Eunice plant.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has authorized the operation of the first cascade at Urenco's Louisiana Energy Services (LES) gas centrifuge enrichment plant at Eunice, New Mexico. LES is a wholly owned subsidiary of URENCO Ltd. Urenco said the process to bring the plant from construction status to fully operational will begin later in June. The Urenco USA plant (formerly the National Enrichment Facility)  will be the first commercial centrifuge enrichment plant to become operational in the USA. Urenco formally inaugurated the plant in early June. "At full capacity, the facility will produce sufficient enriched uranium for nuclear fuel to supply approximately 10% of the electricity needs for the US", according to the Urenco press release.
Urenco Press release, 11 June 2010

Revelations EDF insider: EPR prone to major accident risk

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Charlotte Mijeon

The French Network for Nuclear Phase-out (Réseau "Sortir du nucléaire") reveals confidential documents disclosed by an anonymous insider from EDF (Electricité de France, the main French power utility). These documents show that the “design of the EPR presents a serious risk of a major nuclear accident” - a risk deliberately taken by EDF to increase its profitability. Because it is potentially vulnerable to a situation which could have uncontrollable consequences, the EPR reactor is extremely dangerous.

"Sortir du nucléaire" has set up a group of experts to analyse these recently received documents thoroughly. Here are the first lessons we can learn from them, which are of the utmost importance.

Some operating modes could cause the EPR reactor to explode because of a control rod cluster ejection accident (these control rod clusters moderate the nuclear reaction). These operating modes are mainly related to an objective of economic efficiency, requiring the power of the reactor to adapt to electricity demand. Thus, in order to find a hypothetical economic justification for the EPR, its designers chose to take the very real risk of a major nuclear accident.

EDF and Areva (the leader of the French nuclear industry) have tried to find a solution to the problems related to the operating mode of the reactor: these efforts have failed. The French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) has apparently been kept in the dark about these issues.

So the EPR reactor design seems to increase the risk of a major accident, which would lead to the destruction of the confinement and mass dispersion of radionuclides in the atmosphere.

The accident scenario in detail:
According to calculations by EDF and Areva, the reactor's RIP (Instant Return to Power) control mode and the control rod cluster configuration can induce a rod ejection accident during low-power operation, and lead to the rupture of the control rod drive casing (i). This rupture would cause the coolant to leak outside the nuclear reactor vessel. Such a loss of coolant accident (LOCA - a very serious type of nuclear accident) would damage a large number of fuel rods by heating fuel pellets and claddings (ii), and thus cause the release of highly radioactive steam into the containment. So there is a great risk of a criticality accident resulting in an explosion (iii), the reactor power being increased in an extremely brutal way. Following the ejection of control rod clusters during low-power operation, the reactor emergency shutdown may fail (iv). Whatever the configuration of the control rod clusters, a rod ejection accident induces a high rate of broken fuel rods and therefore a high risk of a criticality accident (v).

For more details, see the documents disclosed by an anonymous EDF source (especially document No. 1) on the website of "Sortir":

i See. paragraph 6.1.6 Document No. 4
ii Cf. Table 3, Document No. 4
iii See Document n°4, Document n°5 Part 2, Rapport Préliminaire de Sûreté EPR 15.2.4.e
iv See Document n°2, note 9
v See Document n°2, note 8.2.1

Source: Press release, 6 March 2010, Réseau "Sortir du nucléaire"
Contacts: Charlotte Mijeon, International Relations Representative +33-675 3620 20 / Nuclear physicists: Monique and Raymond Sené, +33-160 1003 49 / English-speaking Media: Steven Mitchell, +33-952 4950 22 / German-speaking Media: Jean-Yvon Landrac, +33-687 3041 10

Sortir du Nucleaire


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Germany: debate on n-power in CDU party.

Debate is still raging in the German government over the use of nuclear power. Chancellor Merkel has distanced herself from comments by environment minister Norbert Röttgen a day earlier. On February 20, Röttgen predicted that Germany would be free of nuclear power by 2030. By 2030, Germany's youngest nuclear power stations will have reached a lifespan of 40 years, eight longer than that agreed in 2000 on by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's centre-left coalition of Social Democrats and Greens. Röttgen, a member of the conservative Christian Democrats, told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper that even by the most skeptical of forecasts, Germany would reach its goal of getting 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, thus allowing the country's remaining nuclear power stations to shut down. Renewable sources currently supply 16 percent of Germany's electricity. "In the coalition contract it says that nuclear power is a stopgap until renewable energy can take over the supply reliably and at competitive prices. That's exactly the line I am following." But the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) believes that this target is still achievable. "We can still cover 40 percent from renewable energy by around 2020," UBA president Jochen Flasbarth told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on the same day.  A few days later, on February 23, Peter Mueller, Christian Democratic prime minister in the German state of Saarland, said the government should stick to its timetable to phase out nuclear power. Amending the phase-out, fixed by legislation in 2002 for about 2021, “needs plausible grounds,” Mueller is cited as saying. “I don’t see those.”
Source: The Local, 20 February 2010 / Deutsche Welle, 21 February 2010 / Bloomberg, 23 February 2010

EDF-AREVA quarrel over reprocessing resolved?

As mentioned in the January 29 issue of the Nuclear Monitor there is a lot of rivalry between the French nuclear giants AREVA and EDF. In the beginning of January AREVA stopped removing spent fuel from reactors for reprocessing at the facility at La Hague. At the end of 2008, the companies agreed on a framework for contracts for the 2008-2040 period. But since mid-2009 they have not been able to settle disagreements over prices and volumes. On January 20, the two companies were given a two-week deadline by the French government to resolve their differences on this matter. On February 5, the two companies said in a statement, they would sign a contract covering “transportation, treatment and recycling” of used nuclear fuel before the end of March. The agreement reached by the two groups lays out conditions for applying the framework agreement of Dec. 19 2008, which set out a partnership covering treatment-recycling of used fuel, and reprocessed fuel fabrication, the firms said.

Source: Reuters, 5 February 2010

European Union heading for clash on funding ITER.

European governments want to slow down construction of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) because they are paying for the bulk of the construction costs and are concerned that the budget is spiraling out of control. The EU is covering 45% of the costs of building and running ITER, which is to be built in Cadarache, France. The other six partners (the US, China, Russia, India, Japan and South Korea) are each paying 9%.  Concerned about the mounting costs, the EU rejected a construction timetable proposed by ITER's administration at a meeting of participating countries on 18-19 November. The administration had proposed that ITER, which was launched in November 2006, should conduct its first experiments in 2018. But the EU's member states agreed in a position paper in November that a 2018 deadline was “not feasible”. (see Nuclear Monitor 698, 27 November 2009: “Fusion Illusions”) They reaffirmed this at a working group of the Council of Ministers on February 1. A 2018 deadline, however, is strongly backed by all non-EU countries involved in ITER, with the exception of the US, which has shown signs of flexibility. Officials said that the EU would prefer to make construction costs less painful by spreading them over a longer period of time. Concerns about the ballooning budget led the Commission last year to set up an expert group tasked with reviewing the construction costs. The group's report, released to member states in January, said that the construction costs alone could rise as high as 1.5bn Euro (compared to a 2001 estimate of 598 million Euro).Total EU-contribution of ITER-project costs could rise to 3,5 billion Euro (US$ ) instead of the 1.5 billion estimated in 2001.The countries participating in the ITER project will hold a special high-level meeting in Paris on 23-24 February to try to resolve the dispute.

Source: European Voice, 4 February 2010

Replies safety AP1000 & EPR of 'poor quality'.

UK nuclear regulators have criticised the "long delays" and "poor quality" of replies they have received from Westinghouse and Areva following safety reviews of their reactor designs, AP1000 and the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR). The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate has raised a number of serious issues on the design of the new reactors but in its latest report says the response from the two companies is less than expected.

The inspectors have already issued a formal 'Regulatory Issue' (RI) regarding the safety and control systems of the EPR and are now considering a RI on the shield building for the AP1000. Westinghouse is planning to use a new construction method for the reactor's shield building, using a sandwich of steel plates filled with concrete, rather than the conventional reinforced concrete. Regulators say they will have to be convinced the new techniques will be sufficient to withstand an accident, including a crash of a large aircraft. Westinghouse said it changed its construction methods in response to US regulations after 9/11 requiring it to withstand an aircraft impact.

Source: N-Base Briefing 642, 10 February & 643, 17 February 2010

Kakadu mine: Uranium contamination 5400 times background.

Australia: environmental regulators for the office of the Supervising Scientist admitted to a Senate Estimates committee on February 9, that water with uranium concentrations 5400 times background and a cocktail of other radionuclides are seeping from beneath the tailings dam at the Ranger Uranium Mine in Kakadu National Park. The Office of the Supervising Scientist acknowledged to Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam that the contamination was occurring, and said that the estimated amount of 100,000 liters per day was based on modeling and not measurement. "The biggest surprise is that despite knowing about this leakage for years, the regulators don't know how much is seeping, where it is going, or how highly contaminated it is. The regulator suggested that directly sampling this contaminated water would be 'impractical.' I suggest that it is now essential", Senator Ludlam said. "The mining company ERA booked a 2009 profit in excess of A$270 million dollars (US$240m or 177m Euro) and yet the regulator won't compel them to undertake any water quality sampling under the tailings dam. That has to change." Uranium is only one of a number of radioactive elements present in the tailings dam – others include Thorium, Polonium, Radon, Radium, Bismuth, etc.

Source: Media release Australian Greens Party, 9 February 2010