French utility EDF shuts its Tricastin power plant

EDF, the French energy group, is temporarily shutting down its nuclear power plant at Tricastin in order to upgrade the facility’s capability to withstand an earthquake.

The French utility said it has taken the decision to shut down the four generation units of the Tricastin nuclear power plant after a request by the French nuclear safety authority, ASN, on Thursday. A spokesperson for the company said it plans to have the plant running again by the start of November. That request was made by ASN due to the Tricastin plant failing to pass certain safety tests involving above-average earthquakes for the region in the south of France.

The shutdown will, say EDF, allow it to strengthen “a small section of the dyke located to the north of the power plant bordering the Donzère-Mondragon canal.” “As an operator that takes responsibility for the safety of its installations, EDF does not share the view that the four reactors need to be shut down for the duration of the work.

EDF will nevertheless implement the ASN decision without undue delay,” said the company in a statement.

Other critics have taken a harsher view of the shutdown. “This decision imposed by the ASN on EDF shows once again that the operator is irresponsibly ignoring risks that are clearly identified,” said Yannick Rousselet, a nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace France, who argues the Tricastin plant is located in an unsafe area due to the canal’s proximity and the risk of an earthquake.

EDF recently fended off government pressure to close its ageing Fessenheim nuclear plant, which will nevertheless face closure when the company’s facility at Flamanville, in northern France, is up and running at the end of 2018. In order to comply with France’s energy laws on nuclear production, the company says it will have to shut the plant at Fessenheim before its reactor in Flamanville comes online. The Flamanville plant is already six years behind schedule, and costs have overrun by €7bn.

The discovery in 2015 of weak spots in the steel prompted an extensive safety review by the ASN, which threatened the plant.

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Source: FT