Eiffage awarded civil engineering contract for Penly EPR2s

20 November 2023

French construction company Eiffage, through its subsidiary Eiffage Génie Civil, has been awarded a contract worth more than EUR4 billion (USD4.4 billion) by EDF for civil engineering works on the first two EPR2 reactors planned at the Penly site in Normandy, northern France.

The Penly plant site (Image: EDF)

The contract - the tender for which was launched in 2019 - includes the construction of two units, including 69 civil structures. The civil engineering phase will include the construction of the reactor buildings containment - a 70-metre tall dome with a 50-metre diameter - and the turbine hall buildings. It also includes a six-level operation building with a total floor space of 15,000 square metres in a design and construction framework.

The preparatory works are expected to begin in mid-2024 once the administrative authorisations are granted to EDF for the construction of the two units.

Eiffage said it "will be striving to boost the local economy, prioritising local jobs and social employment". At its peak, this civil engineering phase will involve almost 4000 people, and will generate 1.3 million working hours of social employment and jobs for people with disabilities, it said. Eiffage said it will also develop training programmes essential to the revival of the French nuclear industry.

"This new contract awarded to Eiffage demonstrates the group's ability to manage major projects and support large industrial companies in meeting the challenges of decarbonisation and energy sovereignty in France," the company said.

In May 2021, EDF submitted to the State a proposal for the construction of the new EPR2 reactor programme in France. It proposes to build three pairs of EPR2 reactors, in order, at Penly, Gravelines and at either Bugey or Tricastin.

In February 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the time was right for a nuclear renaissance in France, saying the operation of all existing reactors should be extended without compromising safety and unveiling a proposed programme for six new EPR2 reactors, with an option for a further eight EPR2 reactors to follow.

EDF announced in June this year that it is seeking the necessary authorisations to construct two EPR2 reactors at the Penly site. The state-owned power company said its board of directors had decided to proceed with the planned construction of the first pair of EPR2 reactors at Penly "in response to the expectations expressed" during a national public debate, which took place between 27 October 2022 and 27 February 2023 under the aegis of the National Commission for Public Debate.

It added that once the environmental authorisation has been obtained, EDF can begin preparatory work for the site in the summer of 2024, including the earthworks and the reshaping of part of the cliff, "which represents around three and a half years of work". Once the decree is obtained, around 2027, the company can pour the first concrete for the first reactor building. The construction of the units will then take about seven years with commissioning in 2035.

Bouygues Construction was awarded the civil engineering contract for Flamanville 3 EPR in September 2006. Construction work began in December 2007 on the 1650 MWe unit at the site in Normandy. The dome of the reactor building was put in place in July 2013 and the reactor vessel was installed in January 2014. The reactor was originally expected to start commercial operation in 2013 but the project has been beset by delays. Fuel loading is now scheduled for the first quarter of 2024.

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.

The Bugey plant currently comprises four operating 900 MWe pressurised water reactors - units 2-5 - that started up between 1978 and 1979. Bugey 1 was a gas-cooled reactor that was built from 1965 with its first grid connection in 1972. It was shut down permanently in 1994.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News