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Superphénix and its foreign partners

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#441
13/10/1995
Article

(October 13, 1995) France's Superphénix nuclear fast-breeder reactor was shut down again on 4 September, just twelve days after being started up following an eight-month shutdown. Officials confirmed the shutdown only after it was disclosed by the Europeans against Superphénix. Problems surfaced in an electronic circuit board and then in a valve which vented steam as plant engineers started bringing down the reactor's temperature.

(441.4355) WISE-Amsterdam - In May this year a human fault was made by two teams working unknown to each other, when they simultaneously opened the two confinements of the reactor during a half-hour period. Afterwards, officials claimed in a statement that the possible amount of argon gas released could not have been high since the plant had not been working for five months.

Electricité de France (EDF), the electricity company of France, has succeeded in convincing its European partners in Nersa (Centrale Nucleaire Europeenne a Neutrons Rapides S.A.), the exploitation company of Superphénix, to continue their engagement in Nersa.

It will be recalled that on February 22 this year, the French government unilaterally decided to transform the Superphénix nuclear fast-breeder reactor into a research experimental plant. The production of electricity thus ceased to be the principal objective of the plant.

France's move created problems between EDF, which owns 51% of NERSA, and its foreign partners, the Italian state-owned utility ENEL (33%) and SBK (16%). SBK (Schnell Brüter Kernkraftwerkgesellschaft), the firm behind the failed Kalkar fastbreeder reactor, is composed of the German utility RWE Energie (68.85%), Electrabel of Belgium (14.75%), the Dutch utility SEP (14.75) and the U.K.'s Nuclear Electric (1.65%).

The differences were resolved on 15 september 1995. France promised to compensate the costs incurred by EDF's European partners in Nersa through the delivery of electricity worth Ffr 3.5 billion (about US$695) from other nuclear power plants. This restores an important element in the original 1973 shareholders convention, which was that Superphénix would produce power. ENEL and SBK will continue to support Superphénix until 31 december 2000 with Ffr. 800 million (about US$160 million) a year.

Sources:

  • Libération (Fr), 16-17 Sept.
  • ContrAtom (Swiss), Sept.
  • Power In Europe, 22 Sept.
  • Nucleonics Week, 21 Sept.
  • Reuter, 7 Sept. 1995

Contact: Europeans Against Superphénix, 4 rue Bodin, 69001 Lyon, France, Tel +33-78-282 922