The French nuclear safety agency agrees: it's time to stop the construction of the European Pressurized Water Reactor.
Issues seem to have come to a head on 21 May. Maybe that
explains why Anne Lauvergeon, Chief Executive Officer of AREVA, the
French nuclear company aggressively backing the European
Pressurised Reactor (EPR), 'exploded' when we handed her a copy of
Greenpeace 'EPR Survival Kit' during the European Nuclear
Energy Forum on the 22nd.
Apparently, for nuclear regulators in France, enough is enough.
We can only hope that their move is not merely a temporary setback
to construction but the beginning of the end of a failed experiment
in building the world's largest nuclear reactors.
And as we pointed out to Europe's energy policymakers at the
last week's European Nuclear Energy Forum, "Nuclear power? Non,
merci!" is the correct response to anyone approaching you to
buy an EPR.
The regulators' call to halt construction follows a series of
letters from the agency to Flamanville's construction manager. In
the letters, inspectors highlighted a range of problems including
non-conformities in the pinning of the steel framework of the
concrete base slab, incorrectly positioned reinforcements,
inadequacy of technical inspection by both the construction
companies and Electricité de France. Inspectors also uncovered
inconsistencies between the blueprint for reinforcement work and
the plan for its practical implementation. The incorrect
composition of concrete had been used, that may lead to cracks and
rapid deterioration in sea air conditions. Samples of concrete were
also not collected properly,
according to inspectors. Cracks have already been observed in
part of the base slab beneath the reactor building. The supplier of
the steel containment liner reportedly lacks the necessary
qualifications. Fabrication of the liner was continuing despite
quality failures demonstrating the lack of competence of the
supplier. As a result,
one-quarter of the welds of the steel liner of the reactor
containment building were deficient.
Déjà vu all over again
The new reactors Flamanville 3 and Olkiluoto 3, in Finland, are
supposedly the vanguard of a 'renaissance' in nuclear power,
leading to a whole series of these type of reactors being built
around the world. (It certainly seems to be a renaissance in the
kinds of problems we hoped would be relegated to history as the
number of a new nuclear builds declined in the 1990s).
Problems at Flamanville echo those with the first EPR, Olkiluoto
3, which has been under construction for three years but has been
blighted ever since the concrete was poured. Poor quality concrete,
bad welds on the containment liner and low-quality reactor
components are among its problems. The schedule for completion has
been put back by more than two years and estimated costs have
nearly doubled to over Euro 5 billion.
Flamanville 3 is the umpteenth example of the nuclear industry
failing to learn the lessons of history.
Cradle to grave
And if the problems of an unbuilt reactor aren't enough of a
headache for the nuclear industry, the BBC
reports that in the UK the cost of cleaning up old nuclear
sites, including some deemed "dangerous" will soar beyond 144
billion Euros (US$ 91 billion).
Greenpeace has consistently argued that nuclear power is an
unnecessarily complex, risky and expensive way to boil water, to
raise steam, to generate power. James Watt will be turning in his
grave. In defiance of all logic, enormous sums of public money have
been devoted to unsuccessfully overcoming the technical obstacles
inherent to nuclear power.
It is time policymakers and power companies realised that
businesses and citizens want clean reliable power at an affordable
price rather than new monuments to the pursuit of technological
folly. What's more, preventing dangerous climate change means
halving global carbon dioxide emissions by mid-century. Energy efficiency
improvements and expansion of clean energy supply - not more
nuclear capacity - are the key to delivering this energy
Greenpeace factsheet on the EPR, prepared prior to today's
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