The EPR, the flagship of the French nuclear power plant with multiple setbacks – Science and future

The Finnish safety authority has authorized the commissioning of the Olkiluoto 3 EPR nuclear reactor, a French reactor model whose construction has suffered in several countries setbacks that have resulted in delays and additional costs.

A third generation reactor designed to offer greater power and safety, the EPR has been commissioned by China, Finland, Great Britain and France.

However, the Taishan plant near Hong Kong is the only site currently in service and its No. 1 reactor has been shut down since July after an incident, described as “current” by Beijing.

The EPR is a flagship project for French electrician EDF, which plans to hand it over to the giant Indian Jataipur project, but must also respond to the relaunch of a nuclear program announced in France by President Macron to renovate an aging fleet.

Very high power

Launched in 1992, this technology was jointly developed by France’s Areva and Germany’s Siemens within their joint subsidiary, from which Siemens has since withdrawn.

EDF eventually took control of the activity during the state-orchestrated reorganization of the French nuclear sector.

Designed to operate for 60 years, the “European pressurized water reactor” is based on pressurized water reactor technology, the most widely used in the world.

It offers very high power (1,650 megawatts) and benefits from a multiplicity of backup systems to cool the reactor core in the event of failure, a protective concrete and steel shell and a corium recuperator that supposedly reduces the consequences in case of failure. of a fault. serious accident.

Delays in France and Finland

The first project was launched in Olkiluoto (Finland) in 2005, on behalf of the electrician TVO, with Areva and Siemens as main contractors. It was due to end in 2009, but setbacks and budgetary deviations accumulated.

Finally, the reactor was refueled in late March 2021. Almost twelve years behind the initial schedule, the Olkiluoto plant operator now has initial electricity production at the end of January 2022 and production regular in June. .

The second EPR, under construction since 2007 in Flamanville (Manche) in France, has also had many setbacks, due in particular to anomalies discovered in the steel composition of the tank top and bottom.

The French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) required the ship’s deck to be replaced before the end of 2024.

EDF also had welding problems and the group is now targeting fueling by the end of 2022. A schedule the ASN president described as “very tight,” especially since another problem was found. It was made public in March on three taps (pipe connections) of the main primary circuit.

In service in China; additional costs in England

Regarding the two EPRs commissioned by China, Taishan 1 was the first in the world to enter service, in December 2018, although construction began in 2009, after the one in Flamanville. The second Taishan reactor also entered service.

The EPR was selected for a two-reactor project at Hinkley Point in England, which was most recently affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The start of electricity production by the first British reactor is now scheduled for June 2026 instead of the end of 2025 as initially announced, with higher costs.

The British government has started talks to build a new power plant, Sizewell C, a project led by EDF, but plagued by delays due to funding difficulties and political complications.

However, EDF has good hopes of selling the EPR abroad again, counting on the willingness of countries to improve their climate balance and, in particular, to rely less on coal.

The group has the sale of six EPRs for the future Jaitapur power plant and submitted a binding offer in April.

It also dialogues with European countries such as Poland or the Czech Republic.

The group is also working on a new version of the EPR, to reduce costs and construction times.

In France itself, the country with the most nuclear energy in the world (per capita), President Emmanuel Macron announced the construction of new reactors, some 20 years after the last ones were commissioned. However, he postponed the details of these future EPRs until later.

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