EDF sees progress in plan to reinvigorate French industry

16 October 2020

France's EDF has issued an initial progress report on the status of its excell plan, saying commitments made under the plan have now been met or are close to being so. The plan aims to enhance the French nuclear industry's manufacturing quality, boost skills and tighten governance of major nuclear projects.

The Flamanville EPR pictured in front of units 1 and 2 at the plant (Image: EDF)

In October 2019, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire released an audit of the construction of the Flamanville 3 EPR, conducted by former PSA Group chief Jean-Martin Folz. In his report, Folz said the commissioning and operation of the EPR reactors in Taishan, China, have demonstrated "the relevance of the concept and design of the EPR". However, he added that improvements in the constructability and reductions in the cost of EPR units should be made without losing the experience gained so far in order for series construction of reactors to resume. Le Maire requested EDF present an action plan to the French government setting out how it will resolve issues, such as skills shortages, that have caused delays and cost increases at new nuclear power plant projects.

EDF said the purpose of the excell plan - presented in December last year - is to align France's nuclear industry with the highest standards of diligence, quality and excellence required for the successful completion of nuclear projects. "This is a major challenge as nuclear power, generated from a low-carbon energy source, must continue to play an active role in the fight against climate change," it said.

The execution of the plan is being overseen by Alain Tranzer, EDF's executive director for industrial quality and nuclear skills. He reports directly to Jean-Bernard Lévy, the company's chairman and CEO.

EDF announced yesterday that the commitments made in December 2019 have now either been met or are close to being met.

EDF said the French nuclear industry is now making 25 further commitments for the middle of 2021. These commitments revolve around 5 "cornerstones", it said. Firstly, state-of-the-art project governance, with an oversight function for major nuclear new-build projects in order to ensure that each milestone is fully completed. Secondly, scaling-up of competencies in France's nuclear sector, with a focus on the 21,000 professionals joining the industry over the period of 2019 to 2022. Thirdly, the industry's manufacturing and construction companies will develop a plan for "zero defects". In addition, there will be a supply chain relationship based on more streamlined and result-driven contracts. Also, the industry aims to raise quality and nuclear safety standards through standardisation and replication in order to secure costs and timely delivery.

A welding plan has been established to address specific competency and quality challenges, EDF noted. This plan will support the training and qualification of welders working on nuclear projects.

EDF and the whole of the nuclear industry are now embarking upon the second phase of the excell plan, involving its actual implementation on manufacturing plants, in engineering centres, on worksites and on nuclear power plants.

"Supported by the excell plan, we intend to achieve results quickly in all companies and plants forming part of the nuclear industry," Lévy said. "Our aim is to be up to the mark for our current and future projects both in France, the United Kingdom and in other parts of the world, thereby making nuclear energy an instrumental player in the fight against climate change."

EDF and Framatome are developing a simplified version of the EPR design, known as EPR2. Its aim is to incorporate design, construction and commissioning experience feedback from the EPR reactor, as well as operating experience from the nuclear reactors currently in service. EDF must ensure the financing and profitability of its proposed EPR2 reactor before starting construction of any plants based on the design in France, the country's state audit office has said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News