The Greenpeace activists used chains, lockers and barrels to
block entrances to the quarries at Montegourg, Lieusaint and
Doville in Normandy and set up banners denouncing "EPR, the great
bluff". The EPR (1), which promises to be safer, more reliable and
cheaper than previous nuclear reactors, is beset with safety
problems and spiralling costs. On 21 May, the French Nuclear Safety
Agency ordered a halt to the construction of Flamanville 3
following the discovery of chronic problems affecting the quality
of the construction since building work began in December 2007.
"We disagree with the building site being reopened, especially
with regard to the quality of the concrete in the reactor's
foundations, which has been strongly questioned by the Nuclear
Safety Agency. We also want to denounce the bluff that Areva and
Electricité de France (EdF) are playing; the timeframe and budgets
that Areva and EdF have stated are completely unrealistic," said
Yannick Rousselet, Greenpeace France nuclear campaigner.
Despite failing to resolve any of the original causes of the
problems, on 19 June the French Nuclear Safety Agency authorised
EdF to reopen the construction site based solely on promises to
upgrade the control of construction works.
"The nuclear safety agency, which by ordering construction of
the reactor to be stopped, proved it was serious in its safety
role, should have never authorised the reopening of the site in
such conditions", stressed Yannick Rousselet.
Problems include 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 EdF. Inspectors also uncovered
inconsistencies between the blueprint for reinforcement work and
the plan for its practical implementation. Samples of concrete were
also not collected properly, according to inspectors and cracks
have been found 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
"To invest in one of these unsafe reactors is to end up in an
endless spiral of problems, costs and risks. With EPR, the nuclear
industry is bluffing over what it can deliver. In France
construction has been halted for safety reasons, in Finland they
are years late and billions over budget," said Jan Beránek, nuclear
energy campaigner for Greenpeace International.
Other contacts: Beth Herzfeld, Greenpeace International Press Officer: +44 (0) 7717 802 891Adélaïde Colin, Greenpeace France Communications, tel: +33 6 84 25 08 25Yannick Rousselet, Greenpeace France nuclear campaigner, tel: +33 6 85 80 65 59Jan Beránek, Greenpeace International, tel: +31 651 109 558
Notes: (1) Flamanville 3 is one of two EPR under construction. Both it and Olkiluoto 3, in Finland, are supposedly the vanguard of a ‘renaissance’ in nuclear power, which the industry expects to lead to a series of these types of reactors to be built around the world. The problems at Flamanville echo those of the first EPR, Olkiluoto 3, which has been under construction for three years but has experienced a range of problems 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.The new EPR reactor design has been promoted as a flagship for the nuclear industry. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the state owned companies Areva and EdF are now trying to sell French reactors to numerous countries including to Brazil, Canada, China, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.