French reactor upgrades are a priority, says regulator

9 January 2012

The safety margins of French nuclear facilities should be increased ‘as rapidly as possible,’ the French nuclear regulator has concluded from its post-Fukushima safety assessments. However all 79 French nuclear facilities examined ‘offer a sufficient level of safety’ to preclude immediate shutdown.

ASN released the findings from the complementary safety assessments (CSA) carried out in response to the Fukushima accident on 3 January 2012. Assessments were conducted at 79 ‘priority’ facilities including the country’s 58 operating reactors and the EPR under construction.

“ASN considers that for the continuation of their operation, an increase in the robustness of the facilities to extreme situations, beyond their existing safety margins, is necessary, as rapidly as possible,” the regulator said.

ASN has asked licensees to take a series of measures and reinforce the safety requirements relevant to the prevention of earthquake, flooding and other industrial risks.

French nuclear power plant operator EDF is required, before the end of 2012, to set up an emergency nuclear task force to intervene at the site of a nuclear accident within 24 hours. ASN also requires spent fuel pools at various nuclear facilities to be reinforced to reduce the risk of dewatering.

The French regulator also said it will ask Areva to submit a schedule for recovery of legacy wastes and effluents from various silos on the La Hague site ‘as soon as possible.’ This move is similar to that of the UK regulator, which said decommissioning of legacy silos and ponds at the Sellafield site should be carried out with ‘the utmost vigour and determination.’

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