French regulator supports safety options for EPR1200

02 February 2023

France's nuclear safety regulator, the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), at the request of the government, has issued an opinion on the safety options file for EDF's EPR1200 pressurised water reactor (PWR) design. It said its opinion on the safety options for the design - intended for export - is broadly similar to that it gave in July 2019 on those of the EPR2 reactor, from which it is derived.

A cutaway of the EPR1200 design (Image: EDF)

In order to respond to calls for tenders for medium-sized reactors, EDF is developing the EPR1200 reactor. Its design is largely based on that of the EPR2, which is itself based on the current EPR design. The main differences between the EPR1200 and the EPR2 relate to the power level (1200 MWe instead of 1650 MWe) and the number of steam generators (three instead of four). The reactor can be adapted to various site and grid conditions.

In its opinion, ASN notes that the safety objectives - the reference systems used for the design and the architecture of the safety systems - are taken from the EPR2 reactor model. EDF said it has also taken into account the changes that have taken place since July 2019, in particular concerning the break exclusion approach, on which ASN took a position in September 2021. ASN considers that the renewal of as much equipment as possible from the EPR2 reactor on a lower power reactor is likely to strengthen the safety margins.

Under France's Environment Code, ASN may, at the request of the government, examine the conformity of the safety options of nuclear installation models intended for export to the requirements applicable in France of the same type of installation.

In a tender launched in March last year, EDF has proposed its EPR1200 for a new reactor unit at the Dukovany site in the Czech Republic.

The company has also proposed an EPR-1200 reactor as the first nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan.

"Entirely based upon the fully proven EPR design, the EPR1200 benefits from EPR's robustness at a power output of 1200 MWe (instead of 1650), with the highest standards of safety as well as optimised technical, economic and environmental performance," according to EDF.

The main design objectives of the third generation EPR design are increased safety while providing enhanced economic competitiveness through improvements to previous PWR designs scaled up to an electrical power output of around 1650 MWe (net).

Units 1 and 2 of China's Taishan plant were the first two reactors based on the EPR design to begin operating. The reactors entered commercial operation in December 2018 and September 2019, respectively. In Europe, the Olkiluoto 3 EPR in Finland was connected to the grid on 12 March 2022 and is scheduled to enter regular electricity generation next month. Two EPRs are under construction at Hinkley Point C in the UK, currently slated for commercial operation in 2027 (unit 1) and 2028 (unit 2).

Acknowledging the difficulties it was having building the EPR design, EDF and Framatome are developing "a simplified and optimised" EPR design - the 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.

In February last year, 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.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News