Orders given for 'hard core' France

29 June 2012

French authorities have laid out the improvements they want to see from the country's nuclear operators to ensure safety in case of extreme natural disasters like those that led to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi.

The extensive measures described by the Nuclear Safety Authority (Autorité de sûreté nucléaire, ASN) today affect the operations of three organisations: EDF, which operates 58 large reactors at 19 nuclear power plants; Areva, which has fuel cycle facilities; and the CEA, which operates fuel and research facilities.

Head of the ASN, André-Claude Lacoste, said that the Fukushima accident showed that "despite the precautions taken, accidents can never be excluded." As well as thoroughly analysing external risks to nuclear facilities during planning and licensing, the operators of nuclear facilities must be prepared to mitigate events beyond anything ever considered likely.

Some 32 decisions were made on this basis by ASN today, translating into 30 new regulatory requirements across the entirety of French nuclear infrastructure. In general, what the ASN wants in nuclear facilities is a 'hard core' of systems at each facility that are incredibly robust and will provide essential safety services during even the most extreme circumstances. This should push the safety of all facilities well beyond their original design bases, and combined with enhanced management during evolving crises, help to ensure even severe accidents have limited consequences.

EDF's hard core needs to include bunkered power supply systems, and these have to be in place everywhere by 2018. In the short term, the company has to install more robust emergency diesel generators by the end of next year. The company is also to put in place a 'rapid reaction force' of experts and engineers that can be deployed on short notice to any of its power plants around the country. They should be capable of 'intervening' during an emergency that involves several reactors at one site. The force should be in place by the end of this year and fully operational by late 2014. The company must also bring in enhanced training of its key staff to respond to major earthquakes and severe accidents.

For Areva, one new requirement is to establish a 'robust' (i.e. earthquake and flood resistant) means of refilling the large used fuel pond at the La Hague fuel cycle centre. A plan for this has to be submitted to the ASN before the end of this year.

At other fuel cycle plants the concern is over the potential release of industrial gases during an accident. Areva needs an "effective means of reducing the consequences" of releases of chlorine trifluoride, gaseous hydrogen fluoride or uranium hexafluoride from the Eurodif, Socatri, TU5, Georges-Besse II and Comhurex operations.

The CEA will have to remove, by the end of 2013, all fissile material from the Masurca research reactor and bolster its earthquake resistance. Other research reactors in the country - Osiris, Phenix and the under-construction Jules Horowitz - also need improvement for protection against earthquakes for circumstances of loss of power and cooling.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News