French regulator expected to rule on life extension

11 October 2018

Tricastin nuclea plant (Marianne Casamance published under CC BY-SA 4.0)France’s Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) said on 8 October that it would issue by the end of 2020 its much-delayed generic ruling on the life extension of EDF’s nuclear plants.

EDF has covered all the required topics in the proposals it submitted in September for the fourth ten-year review of its French fleet of 900MWe reactors, ASN said. These units comprise 34 of France’s 58 operating reactors. In 2019, Tricastin 1 will be the first unit to be reviewed in this assessment.

The ruling has been repeatedly delayed, most recently by outgoing ASN chief Pierre-Franck Chevet who said in November 2017 that the ASN would rule on those reactor lifespans in 2020-21, with a first recommendation in 2020 to be followed by a legally binding ruling in 2021. Bernard Doroszczuk, a candidate for the ASN presidency, told a French Senate committee hearing about his nomination on 10 October: “Based on the information at my disposal, the generic ruling should be issued at the end of 2020.”  

France’s 58 nuclear reactors, built in mostly between the end of the 1970s and the early 1980s, are reaching the end of their 40-year design lifespan, which EDF is seeking to extend to 50 years. Tricastin 1 will reach the 40-year threshold in the next 2-3 years and will be subjected to a thorough inspection before ASN decides whether it can continue to operate.

Doroszczuk said the ASN’s generic ruling on lifespan extensions was not a prerequisite for the 40-year inspections, which would take place between 2019 and  2030 for the 900MWe units.

The French government is expected to publish its long-term energy strategy at the end of October, detailing when France will reduce the share of nuclear in electricity generation from 75% to 50%. The government has said the ASN ruling will be a significant factor in this decision. Its planned strategy could involve closing up to a third of EDF’s reactors. Doroszczuk noted that the absence of a “core catcher” in EDF’s operating reactors would be a factor in the ASN’s lifespan decision. He said that not all EDF’s 900MWe reactors have the necessary space to add this feature, which is included in the design of the new EPR reactor, under construction at unit 3 of the Flamanville NPP.\

Photo: Tricastin 1 will be the first plant to undergo the fourth ten-yearly inspection (Credit: Marianne Casamance - Own work published under CC BY-SA 4.0)

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