EdF has strongly said that nuclear safety remains its first priority, while outlining plans for a number of measures aimed at further improving operational efficiency.

The director of EdF’s nuclear production division, Laurent Stricker, has published a letter to the French nuclear regulator, the DSIN which stresses that nuclear safety is: “at the root of the competitive position of our facilities”. The letter is in reply to a request by DGSNR director André Lacoste for details about EdF plans for significant cuts in its 2002 nuclear operational budget.

Lacoste said that he had been informed by Stricker that the cuts would affect both staffing levels and the timetable for some maintenance work, in particular, replacement of reactor vessel heads at some of EdF’s nuclear plants. He asked Stricker for details of the planned cuts, to the extent that they might have implications – even indirectly – for nuclear safety.

Lacoste said: “While EdF clearly retains responsibility for its own budget decisions, I need to be certain that they will have no effect on safety levels at its facilities. In particular, that means the plants must continue to be operated under satisfactory conditions, in terms of both personnel and of materials and equipment. In particular, any delays in maintenance operations can only be accepted if they are justified from the point of view of safety.” Stricker’s reply reads in part: “EdF, like every company concerned about economic efficiency and customer satisfaction, must improve cost control. However, management has always considered nuclear safety to be priority number one, because of its concern both for the protection of people and the environment and for long-term efficiency. A nuclear park like EdF’s cannot continue to operate if safety is not guaranteed both on a daily basis and in the long term. Based on these objectives – safety as a priority and improved budgetary control – I have implemented an examination of the specific situation in 2002, which evaluates each planned expense and weighs the risks of a reduction or possible postponement. I have excluded every possibility that could, in my view, represent a safety risk, and have accepted only those that represent a controlled industrial risk – for instance, a possible, limited loss of production output.” With regard to staffing levels, Stricker said EdF continued to ‘anticipate’ future needs, but the main priority for 2002 was the ‘optimal redeployment of competence internally’. Recruitment plans would be based on the individual needs of each plant, and reductions in training expenditure would not affect the key areas of basic skills, safety, radiation protection, security and quality.