French nuclear plant weathers storm

02 March 2010

Four reactors at the Blayais nuclear power station on the west coast of France continued to operate normally throughout the worst storm to hit the country in over a decade.

Storm damage (EdF)
Some of the damage
wreaked by Xynthia
(Image: EdF)

The storm, now named Xynthia, battered western France over the weekend causing widespread damage and flooding in the Vendee and Charente-Maritime regions and leaving over a million customers without power.
The French Nuclear Safety Authority (Autorité De Sûreté Nucléaire, ASN) activated emergency plans for the plant on the estuary of the Gironde river on 27 February, when wind speeds over the plant reached threshold criteria. Operator Electricité de France (EdF) also imposed its own enhanced surveillance measures at 9pm that evening in response to storm forecasts.
The special measures saw both ASN and its technical support agency ISRN activate their emergency centres and allowed EdF to put in place preventive measures in preparation for possible flooding as a result of the high winds. Both EdF and ASN lifted their special measures the following morning, when wind speeds dropped below the trigger level. In practice, all four reactors were able to operate normally throughout the storm.
The special measures were developed following the experiences of flooding caused by storms in 1999. Xynthia is the worst storm to hit France since then, and caused a number of fatalities across western and central France. By 2 March, nearly 50,000 homes remained without power, even though EdF had managed to reconnect over a million customers. The company warned that it could take several days for supplies to all affected areas to return to normal.

Researched and written

by World Nuclear News