French regulator tightens control of manufacturing

11 June 2018

The French nuclear safety regulator has 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.

The Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (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 detection of this anomaly led ASN to ask Areva NP and EDF to "learn all possible lessons from this event". In May 2016, the regulator said an ongoing quality audit at Le Creusot forge - which Areva bought in 2006 - had identified "irregularities" in the paperwork of some 400 plant components produced there since 1965. "Irregularities of the same type had also been brought to light in other countries," ASN noted.

"Confirmed or suspected cases, some of which were detected by basic nuclear installation licensees or the manufacturers themselves, only concern an extremely small part of nuclear activities, but could nonetheless have significant safety implications," ASN said on 8 June.

"This situation shows that neither the robustness of the monitoring and inspection chain, at the top of which are the manufacturers and the licensees, nor the high level of quality demanded in the nuclear industry, were able to completely rule out the risk of counterfeit, suspect and fraudulent items (CSFI)."

ASN said it has assessed how to strengthen the requirements applicable to the industry and how to improve the industry's own oversight system.

It wrote on 15 May to all French nuclear operators as well as manufactures of nuclear pressure equipment and of packages for the transport of radioactive materials to explain the applicable regulatory requirements for preventing, detecting and dealing with cases of CSFI. In particular, the regulator requested that greater consideration be given to the risk of CSFI in the integrated management system that licensees are required to implement. ASN also requires that licensees and manufacturers propose the monitoring actions they will be entrusting to external inspection organisations.

The new measures reinforce the provisions made by the licensees and manufacturers, such as improving data security, and the use of external inspection organisations to support the oversight of manufacturing. They also aim to improve ASN's oversight practices and require that fraud is systematically reported to ASN.

ASN said arrangements enabling whistle-blowers to report potential CSFI will be in place by the end of this year. It also intends to hire two anti-fraud specialists and supplement the training of its inspectors in this field.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News