Australian news, and some related international items

Can France rely on its nuclear fleet for a low-carbon 2050?

Map above refers to 2016 – many of the nuclear plants above are not currently in operation

Nuclear Engineering International, 14 Dec 22,

EDF has not shown its 900 MW units can be operated that far ahead, says ASN’s annual assessment of nuclear safety in France. Decisions have to be taken soon if nuclear is to play a big part in 2050 – and a ‘Marshall Plan’ is needed to rebuild the industry’s capability

France may have to go back to the drawing board with regard to options for decarbonising its economy, because assumptions it has made on the lifetime of the 900 MW reactors in its nuclear fleet may be unwarranted.

That was the warning in French nuclear safety authority ASN’s annual report on safety in the country’s nuclear industries.

The annual “ASN report on the state of nuclear safety and radiation protection in France in 2021”, published earlier this year, warned of “new energy policy prospects which must address safety concerns at once”. And it reminded operators that “quality and rigour in the design, manufacture and oversight of nuclear facilities, which were not up to the required level in the latest major nuclear projects conducted in France, constitute the first level of Defence in Depth in terms of safety.”

ASN noted that five of the six scenarios presented in a report by French system operator Re´seau de Transport d’Electricite´ (RTE) report on “Energies of the future”, which aims to achieve a decarbonised economy by 2050, are based on continued operation of the existing nuclear fleet. But with regard to the 900 MW fleet, ASN says, it cannot say that those plants can be operated beyond 50 years, based on information it received during the generic examination of the fourth periodic safety review of that reactor series. It added, “Due to the specific features of some reactors, it might not be possible, with the current methods, to demonstrate their ability to operate up to 60 years”.

EDF has 32 operating 900 MWe reactors commissioned between 1978 and 1987 and they are reaching their fourth periodic safety review. This safety review has “particular challenges”, ASN says. In particular:

Some items of equipment are reaching their design-basis lifetime……………………

Too optimistic on new-build?

The safety authority also noted that one RTE scenario had almost 50% nuclear in its electricity mix in 2050. It said, consultation with industry revealed that the rate of construction of new nuclear reactors in order to achieve such a level would be hard to sustain……………………………………

Broad concerns

More broadly, ASN said whatever France’s energy policy, it will “imply a considerable industrial effort, in order to tackle the industrial and safety challenges.

If nuclear power is needed for 2050, the nuclear sector will have to implement a ‘Marshall Plan’ to make it industrially sustainable and have the skills it needs.

It warned that “Quality and rigour in the design, manufacture and oversight of nuclear facilities… were not up to the required level in the latest major nuclear projects conducted in France”.

It also warned that more work was also needed in fuel chain facilities. It said a series of events “is currently weakening the entire fuel cycle chain and is a major strategic concern for ASN requiring particularly close attention”. Most urgent is a build-up of radioactive materials and delays in construction of a centralised spent fuel storage pool planned by EDF to address the risk of saturation of the existing pools by 2030. The need for the pool was identified back in 2010, but work has not begun.

ASN said the combination of shortcomings between fuel cycle and nuclear plants meant the electricity system “faces an unprecedented two-fold vulnerability in availability”. New vulnerabilities like the discovery of stress corrosion cracking mostly “stem from the lack of margins and inadequate anticipation,” ASN said, and “must serve as lessons for the entire nuclear sector and the public authorities.”……………….

An energy policy comprising a long-term nuclear component “must be accompanied by an exemplary policy for the management of waste and legacy nuclear facilities,” ASN said………………………………….. more


December 15, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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