Regulator backs continued operation of Bugey unit

26 July 2012

Unit 2 at EDF's Bugey nuclear power plant is capable of operating for a further ten years, France's nuclear regulator has concluded after the unit's third ten-year safety inspection. A final decision on its continued operation is expected before the end of the year.

ASN inspectors at Bugey (ASN)
ASN inspectors at Bugey (Image: ASN)

The French nuclear safety regulator, the Autorité De Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), said that its decision takes into account the initial lessons learned from the accident at Fukushima Daiichi and the results of additional safety assessments which led to the ASN specifying extra requirements for the Bugey site last month.

ASN noted that a detailed examination of the Fukushima accident could take up to ten years and may eventually lead it to amend or supplement the initial requirements it has issued. The Directorate General for Civil Protection and Crisis Management, part of the Ministry of Interior, has also prepared new regulations to enhance the safety of nuclear power plants. These will be integrated into the existing regulatory requirements for Bugey 2, ASN said.

Bugey 2's third ten-yearly inspection and maintenance outage took place between February 2010 and November 2010, during which the ASN carried out four inspections as well as supervising hydraulic tests to requalify the plant's primary circuit. EDF presented the results of the third safety review to ASN and the minister responsible for nuclear safety in April 2011.

After analyzing this report, ASN says that it supports the continued operation of the reactor - a 910 MWe pressurized water reactor (PWR) that began operating in 1978 - and has informed EDF and the minister for environment, sustainable development and energy, Delphine Batho, of its position. However, it said that a final decision on the unit's continued operation will be made before the end of 2012.

Rather than issuing an operating licence for a set period of time, French law requires that the operator of a reactor performs a review of the level of safety at the unit every ten years. This involves a compliance review, which ensures that the plant complies with applicable safety rules, and a security review. The process also makes sure the plant incorporates the latest safety practices and sets new operating conditions, as well as verifying that any phenomena associated with plant ageing will be manageable for a minimum of ten years.

In July 2009, the ASN approved EDF's general safety case for 40-year operation of the 900 MWe units, based on generic assessment of the 34 reactors, although the individual reactors must still pass their ten-yearly review. Tricastin 1 became the first such reactor to complete its third ten-yearly review in 2010. This was followed by Fessenheim 1 in 2011.

France's state audit office - the Cour des Comptes (Court of Audit) - concluded in January that investing in new nuclear generating capacity or any other form of energy would be too expensive and come online too late. Extending the operating lives of its existing nuclear power reactors would be the country's best option, it said. The court, at the request of then-prime minister Francois Fillon, released a report that claimed that if all current units are limited to a 40-year operating life, 22 of the country's 58 reactors will have to shut down by 2022.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News