Review of Le Creusot records passes milestone

18 July 2018

France's Framatome announced today that it has completed identifying and characterising deviations in all of the manufacturing records from the Le Creusot site for forgings used in French nuclear power plants. Manufacturing operations at the facility - which were suspended in December 2015 following the discovery of quality assurance issues - resumed in January.

Manufacturing at Creusot Forge (Image: Areva)

The French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) requires utility EDF to examine the manufacturing records of all components produced by the facility that are in use at its operating nuclear power plants. EDF must submit the results of this review no later than two months before the restart of each of its reactors following scheduled refuelling outages.

Framatome said today a total of 1925 records had been analysed and so far none of the deviations examined questions the serviceability of components supplied to EDF. It added that summary reports for all French reactors will be submitted to ASN by September.

"Further to examination by ASN of the reports submitted to date, the French safety authority has given its consent for the restart of 31 reactors," it noted.

David Emond, executive vice president of Framatome's component manufacturing business Unit, said: "Thanks to the integrity, the professionalism, and the attention to detail displayed by the Framatome teams, we have been able to examine the records, one by one, to the requisite quality and timeframe, and with keen consideration for nuclear fleet operating challenges by our customer EDF."

ASN announced in April 2015 the discovery of an anomaly in the composition of the steel in certain zones of the vessel closure head and the vessel bottom head of the Flamanville EPR reactor. The forge was taken out of operation in December 2015. The detection of the anomaly led ASN to ask Areva NP and EDF to "learn all possible lessons from this event". Of the 6000 records identified during the initial survey, 3854 correspond to forgings installed on nuclear installations.

Framatome received approval from ASN and EDF in January to resume the manufacture of forgings for the French nuclear fleet at its Le Creusot site. The decision enabled Le Creusot to continue ramping up its production with a target of 80 ingots per year.

"The Framatome Le Creusot site will provide the main forged components for nuclear new build projects internationally as well as parts for replacement components to equip French reactors," Framatome said. "Supported by the implementation of the improvement plan launched over two years ago, the site is now able to execute this workload, with safety and quality being the top priorities, along with the strengthening of teams and skills, and investments in the production equipment."

The company said the Le Creusot site - which currently has 230 employees - recruited 28 people in 2017 and will add a further 40 this year. Following investments already made at the site - including EUR7.5 million (USD8.7 million) last year - an EUR11.0 million investment plan is under way for 2018.

"This equates to a total of 35 projects covering all sectors of the plant, including the renewal of machine units, improvement of quenching process equipment, and reliability improvements to the 11,300-tonne press," Framatome said.

"With its Factory of the Future project, Framatome is equipping the site with digital applications to make data acquisition more reliable and to improve traceability during forging operations," the company said. "In addition, teams are working on an R&D programme to develop new technical forging processes."

Earlier this year, ASN introduced stricter measures for monitoring the production of components, as a response to irregularities found in paperwork at the Creusot Forge. Licensees and manufacturers have until 1 September to implement them.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News