Public consultation called in France on ageing reactors

23 January 2024

France’s High Committee for transparency and information on nuclear safety (HCTISN - Haut Comité pour la Transparence et l’Information sur la Sécurité Nucléaire) has launched a public consultation on the extended operation of certain reactors beyond 40 years.

This consultation concerns the maintenance of 20 1,300 MWe P4 reactors at eight NPPs commissioned between the mid-1980s and early 1990s. They include Belleville 1&2, Cattenom 1-4, Flamanville 1&2, Golfech1&2, Nogent 1&2, Paluel 1-4, Penly1&2 and St Alban 1&2. They will all undergo extensive examinations by the French nuclear safety regulator (ASN - Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire) and will be modified as required. While French law does not set a maximum operating time for reactors, it requires that they are checked and validated by ASN every 10 years.

HCTISN President Christine Noiville explained that 40 years was considered the overall design life of certain equipment. “Therefore, it is normal at this time to ask whether or not the maintenance of these reactors can be continued under optimal safety conditions. And our question is not: 'is it appropriate to continue the operation or not?' It is 'if the political decision is made to do so, then under what conditions of safety it is' is conceivable’.”

Jean-Claude Delalonde, Chairman of the National Association of Local Information Committees & Commissions (ANCCLI - Association Nationale des Comités et Commissions Locales d'Information) stressed that everyone is invited to express their opinion and share their concerns. "Be assured that, in light of the feedback on the problems of ageing technology, everything is being done to ensure that our nuclear fleet continues to function well."

EDF's Director in charge of nuclear production, Etienne Dutheil said feedback was useful in the case during a similar consultation five years ago for the fourth periodic review of the oldest 900 MWe French reactors. "We had been very strongly questioned by the public on the training of staff and employees and we have made a greater effort to better prepare our staff for these changes and to better integrate training right from the design stage.”

Image: Paluel nuclear power plant

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