Prospects good for OK of French nuclear plants

8th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

French built nuclear plants are in good overall shape and have a strong chance of gaining approval for extending their operations.

Paris – Nuclear plants that France built after the oil shocks of 1970s are in good overall shape and have a strong chance of gaining approval for extending their operations for a fourth decade, the nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday.

In a statement, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) said it had told state-owned operator Electricite de France (EDF) that it did not see any "general problem" that would block authorisation for the 900-megawatt reactors, the mainstay of the nuclear supply.

Under a 2006 law, nuclear plants have to undergo a thorough safety vetting every 10 years, a procedure that the ASN said required the facility to close down for three or four months.

France derives around three-quarters of its electricity from nuclear.

Three-quarters of these plants were built between 1979 and 1990, which means the first of them are now approaching the 30-year mark.

ASN said it was "satisfied" with the overall conclusions of a report on the 900-MW reactors by EDF, but this did not by itself mean the agency was giving the green light.

"Our overall position will be complemented by our position on a reactor-by-reactor basis," it said.

France has 34 of the 900-MW reactors, whose average age is 27 years; 20 1,300-MW reactors whose average age is 21 years; and four 1,450-MW reactors whose average age is 11 years.

Belgium, Britain, Germany, Japan and Spain, like France, do not have a specific operational life for nuclear plants, choosing instead to renew authorisation on the basis of a safety checks every 10 years.

The United States, in contrast, gives plants an initial operational maximum of 40 years.

So far, 52 US plants, or half of the country's total of 104, have been given 20-year extensions, according to the World Nuclear Association (WNA) website.

In addition to the 10-year inspections, the ASN also carries out regular safety surveillance, with the right to close down facilities in the event of "serious and imminent risks," the agency said.

AFP / Expatica

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