IAEA finds commitment to safety at Belleville plant

02 December 2021

EDF has demonstrated commitment to safety at its Belleville nuclear power plant in central France by introducing additional methods to prepare for accident management and using innovative approaches in the training of plant staff, an expert team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has concluded. The team also identified areas for further enhancement, for example in operation, maintenance and operating experience.

Belleville (Image: EDF)

Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) missions aim to improve operational safety by objectively assessing safety performance using the IAEA's Safety Standards and proposing recommendations for improvement where appropriate.

A 14-member team comprising experts from Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, the UK and the USA, as well as three IAEA officials, completed an 18-day OSART mission to Belleville today. The mission was carried out at the request of the French government. The team interviewed personnel, reviewed safety related documentation, and observed plant activities.

"The team observed clear commitments to safety demonstrated by the plant managers and staff," said team leader Fuming Jiang, Head of the Operational Safety Section at the IAEA. "They were open, transparent and receptive to proposals for operational safety improvements."

The team identified good practices to be shared with the nuclear industry globally, including: the plant improved monitoring of the control rods, which regulate the reactor's fission reaction and power output, through a simple but effective modification to the main operator control board; the plant organises innovative, engaging, and technically relevant training exercises at its on-site-training facility; and the plant uses fluorescent tags to quickly locate essential equipment needed to manually re-establish core cooling in difficult situations such as complete loss of power.

The mission made proposals to improve operational safety, including: the plant should further improve operator crew performance such as using pre-job briefings more effectively; the plant should minimise delays in completing corrective actions to prevent the recurrence of events; and the plant should improve its work management process to maximise equipment availability.

"The OSART mission was a useful exercise, and the recommendations and suggestions will help ensure a continuous improvement of the plant's operational safety," said José de Carvalho, director of the Belleville plant.

The team provided a draft report of the mission to the plant management, which will have the opportunity to make factual comments. These comments will be reviewed by the IAEA and the final report will be submitted to the French government within three months.

The Belleville plant - located around 150 kilometres south of Paris - consists of two 1363 MWe pressurised water reactors, which were connected to the grid in 1987 and 1988.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News