(Montel) French utility EDF has postponed the commercial start-up of its Flamanville reactor by six months to the end of 2023 to repair defective welds, though it warned on Wednesday there are other issues related to corroded valves.
The main reason behind the setback was the need for more time to repair 110 faulty welds, which would now end in August, four months later than initially scheduled, said Alain Morvan, head of EDF’s Flamanville project, during a press conference.
“To date, 70% of these welds are in progress and 12 are completely finished before heat treatment,” he said.
However, the firm highlighted further issues at the 1.6 GW new generation European pressurised reactor (EPR) on the Channel coast and how it was dealing with them, pointing to corroded safety valves.
"We have a treatment solution on the control pilots of these valves, which we have submitted to the ASN (French nuclear safety authority)” Morvan said, adding the watchdog would decide on this issue by the end of June.
At the beginning of last April 2021, the ASN indicated EDF should change valve stems , given stress corrosion problems at sister reactor Olkiluoto in Finland.
The safety body had also previously requested the state-run firm replace the cover of the reactor vessel before the end of 2024.
“We plan to replace the cover during the first shutdown of Flamanville 3 after a first cycle of production,” Xavier Ursat, EDF’s head of new nuclear projects, said at the same press conference.
Asked whether EDF could be more specific regarding its schedule for fuel loading operations, Ursat said there was “still a lot of work to be done”, with ongoing uncertainty over the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on upcoming operations.
His comments came after the firm announced earlier it had delayed fuel loading at the plant to next year’s second quarter, from the end of 2022, citing Covid-19 for its impact on operations. LINK
The Flamanville delay was also due to EDF’s need to integrate feedback from an investigation into faulty fuel-rod cladding at China’s Taishan 1, the company said this morning.
The Chinese reactor, in which the utility has a stake, was built by French engineering firm Framatome and has similar specifications to the Flamanville EPR.
The latest postponement comes as French president Emmanuel Macron announced in November the launch of a programme to build new nuclear reactors for the first time in over 30 years to guarantee security of supply and meet EU climate targets.