French reactor cleared for 40 years of operation

08 December 2010

Unit 1 of the four-unit Tricastin nuclear power plant in southern France has been given approval by the French nuclear regulator to operate for a further ten years. The reactor is the first in the country to have completed its third ten-year safety review. 


Tricastin (EdF)
The four reactors at Tricastin (Image: EdF)
In France the authorization to operate a nuclear reactor does not specify a time limit. Instead, the law requires that the operator of a reactor performs a review of the level of safety at the unit every ten years.


The French Nuclear Safety Authority (Autorité De Sûreté Nucléaire, ASN) said that Electricité de France (EdF) has successfully completed a third ten-year safety review for Tricastin 1. The review comprised two phases: a review of the unit's compliance with safety requirements and a reassessment of security measures at the plant. ASN said that it was satisfied that EdF has the ability to safely operate the reactor for a further ten years.


Tricastin 1 – a 900 MWe pressurised water reactor which began operating in December 1980 - is the first to have undergone its third decennial outage. The ASN conducted its third ten-year inspection of the unit between May and August 2009.


EdF said that unit 2 at Tricastin will begin its third ten-year outage in January 2011, while those at units 3 and 4 will follow in the coming years.


All 34 of France's 900 MWe reactors had their lifetimes extended by ten years in 2002, after their second ten-yearly review. Most started up in the late 1970s to early 1980s, and they are reviewed together in a process that takes four months at each unit. A review of the 1300 MWe class followed and in October 2006 the ASN cleared all 20 units for an extra ten years' operation conditional upon minor modifications at their 20-year outages over 2005-14. The third ten-year inspections of the 900 MWe series began in 2009 and will run to 2020. The third ten-year inspections of the 1300 MWe series will run from 2015 to 2024.


In July 2009, the ASN approved EdF's safety case for 40-year operation of the 900 MWe units, based on generic assessment of the 34 reactors.  Each individual unit will now be subject to inspection during their 30-year outage.


In July 2010, EdF said that it was assessing the prospect of 60-year lifetimes for all its existing reactors. This would involve replacement of all steam generators (three in each 900 MWe reactor, four in each 1300 MWe unit) and other refurbishment, costing €400 to €600 million ($530 to $795 million) per unit to take them beyond 40 years. EdF is currently replacing steam generators at two units per year, and plans to increase this to three units in 2016.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News