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THIS JOURNAL WILL "TELL IT LIKE IT IS" REGARDING DIFFERENT FORMS OF ENERGY AND THEIR GLOBAL IMPLICATIONS/PROBLEMS

NUCLEAR RENAISSANCE? – NOT IN FRANCE, ENGLAND, FINLAND, OR CHINA

9 Jul 2015

On 9 Jul 2015 BBC announced that a fatal flaw has been discovered in a twin reactor, large Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) designed by Areva / Eletricite de France (EDF) currently under construction at Hinkley in the UK, and in Flamaville Normandy.; Pierre-Franck Chevet, President of the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN- counterpart to the USA ‘s NRC) told the BBC that: “ the flaw in the steel housing the reactor core at the nuclear plant being built in Normandy is serious. Chevet added that unless he was satisfied with the plans to put it right (replace the steel containment pressure vessel?), he could stop the project (of course he could, but would he?). EDFs, PR campaign is already saying that the fault in the reactor is thought to be a construction fault, not an inherent weakness in the design. Oh really? Fortunately, or unfortunately for the world, the troubled European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) under construction in France England are the the standard bearers for the next generation of Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs). Note: In our opinion the EPR is already an obsolete, common Light Water Pressurized Water Reactor with a few more bells and whistles, but with fatal metal flaws.

ASN PRES. CHEVET ADDED: It is a serious anomaly affecting a crucial component of the NPP …We have observed a bad chemical and mechanical characteristic.” ASN has ordered the French state owned reactor manufacturer Areva (Little sister to EDF)to conduct a further round of destructive testing on a similar component which will see the 116 ton pressure vessel head or lid once earmarked for the planned reactor at Hinkley C, destroyed in the process. Clearly authorities are beginning to look for the least expensive way to “certify” the operability of the steel pressure vessel despite Chevet’s assessment that “We have observed a bad chemical and mechanical characteristic.”Fatal flaw is more like it! But Pierre-Franck Chevet says the tests revealed the resilience of the steel used was “far below the proscribed value”.

FRENCH STATE-OWNED “EDF GROUP”, Plays a central role in four (4) countries that are way behind in similar NPP projects, has issued a statement that new tests are planned intended to: “provide the safety authority (ASN) with all the necessary information to demonstrate the safety and quality of the corresponding equipment” . However, ASN’ Pres Chevet says Chemical and mechanical tests on the steel completed in late 2014 found “high carbon concentration, leading to lower than expected mechanical toughnessOn this characteristic (of the steel) we have 50% of (the desired) what we want.”.For comparative purposes, imagine a solid steel thermos bottle with the following particulars: The 12.7 meter high pressure vessel weighs 410 tons Plus a 116 ton pressure vessel head (or lid if you will), is designed to contain huge mechanical and thermal shocks. Current French standards require the vessel to withstand shocks of 60 joules, but ASN found actual values as low as 30 joules,-is in parts, about ½ as strong as it needs to be.

ASNs PIERRE-FRANCK CHEVET SOUNDS TOUGH, BUT in the end, he blinked when he said: Though there are aspects of the material which were good. ASN will not give its verdict (?) until early next year (2016), but EDF maintains work will continue for now. Mr Chevet told the BBC:.”It could be yes, it could be no it could be yes with certain conditions”. Too bad he did not elaborate. Certain conditions? Payola ?; who knows? . The flagship project for manufacturers Areva and the French state owned utility EDF is already several years behind schedule, and the costs have soared from £2.3billion at the time of purchase, to nearly £6 billion now.

COST CONSIDERATION IS PARAMOUNT IN DECISION MAKING. International nuclear consultant Yves Marignac, Director of “Wise-Paris”, has been critical of the French nuclear program for many years He recently said: “The problem would raise serious issues of profitability…Economic scenario assessments might show that abandoning the project is cheaper than repair or replacement options, when factors such as the financial costs of further delays, or savings on decommissioning costs if the reactor doesn’t go nuclear are included.” In other words, the program does not make money sense. We agree, we saw this in our backyard several years ago.

MEANWHILE IN FLAMANVILLE NORMANDY an identical, EPR NPP has identical problems. Its completion date has shifted from 2012 to 2017, and the latest French ASN pronouncements presage very expensive and time consuming efforts if they have to replace both the base, of the reactor as well as the lid. Steve Thomas, professor of energy policy at Greenwich University; has written extensively about the EPR delays, and said:.”Removing the base would be more time consuming and could be prohibitively expensive.” We think the operative word is “prohibitively”. It could mean abort the project. We hope they will.

MEANWHILE IN THE BRITISH Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) Counterpart to the French ASN, A spokesman said: If we need to fabricate a new (containment vessel) bottom and head, that is not going to be quick…our two organizations are liaisoning closely…ONR expects that any learning that is identified from Flamanville, will apply to the Hinkley Point C project.” The statement said: “If ONR is not convinced that an activity is sufficiently safe, it will not [give] permission for the activity.”

SEA WATER FOR COOLANT SEEMS INCOMPREHENSIBLE. Remember Fukushima 11 Mar 2011. Like Dai No 1, Hinkley’s large twin reactors (1,600 MW ea.) are located close, perhaps too close, and insufficiently high above the sea level. That, they say, is to use sea water as a coolant. Fukushima has demonstrated sea water exacerbates all cooling problems because of its corrosive effect but, sea water is abundant; and besides, if not sea water, what other coolant? TEPCO/Fukushima though they had planned for fresh water, but quickly resorted to sea-water in the emergency when their fresh water pumps failed.

EDF /AREVA SAYS: in an official statement, “there is still plenty of time to learn the lessons.”EDF Energy still has to make its final investment decision regarding the reactors to be built at Hinkley in Somerset the equivalent parts which will be used on Hinkley Point C have not yet been manufactured. The way in which they will be manufactured will ensure they meet all the requirements of the UK regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR)”.

FRANCE’S ASN PLANS CHINA VISIT. In a written technical assessment, France ASN confirms the two EPR reactor vessels being built in Taishan China were cast at the same forge in Le Creusot in eastern France “using a process similar to that used for the Flamanville EPR reactor pressure vessel”. Mr Chevet will fly to China in the coming weeks to speak to his counterpart, the Chinese Nuclear Regulator there. It could be a terse conversation given the growing interdependence of their two nuclear industries. Chevet added: “It is serious enough to put the EPR at risk from a technical point of view, and it raises big questions about the competence and integrity of the NPP industry.” Now he is telling it like it is! The Chinese people are not likely to accept lies or half-truths.

PLEASE NOTE THAT NO MENTION WAS MADE OF NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL. With over 1,000 NPPs in operation today continuing to accumulate “spent” high level nuclear waste in their cooling ponds, the magnitude of the problem of highly persistent radioactive fuel rods with nowhere to go, continues to be one of today’s most serious problems along with climate change and sea-level rise. Please read our next post in that regard.

P.S. Malaysia’s Airasia would sell in a minute to any willing buyer. They continue all forms of commercial zig-zagging, and cheap flight enticements to no avail. Their aircraft maintenance, and piloting skills are no longer trusted by most travelers.

Edward Oliver Gonzalez

July 9, 2015 at 9:45 PM Comments (0)