— MIT’s floating reactors — “outstanding safety performance” or dangerous fraud? (VIDEO)

Here is the transcript and MIT description for the Jacopo Buongiorno video. Again, this is a must-see video; archive it for future use.

In this video are many errors and assumptions. Obviously neither Buongiorno nor his team are sailors who have experienced weather and ocean conditions. The evacuation and contamination zone for Fukushima is not a few miles. The only thing infinite about the ocean is its goodness. Certainly the ocean is not an infinite heat sink. Heating the ocean is never, ever, a good idea, and discharging radioactivity into the water is insane. Radioactive gases will also burp out of the ocean as fast as they are pumped in, as anyone who has blown bubbles into water knows. So much for mitigation. So much for ‘higher’ education.

These universities seem to be publicly-funded industry profit enrichment systems. There is little critical thinking going on here, and degrees are being given to fools and yes-men who develop systems that endanger the Earth and everyone on it. 

Video and description from Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Published April 15, 2014

“When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused most of the damage and contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects — specifically, the lack of cooling for the reactor cores and spent fuel, due to a shutdown of outside power — that caused most of the harm.

A new design for nuclear plants built on floating platforms, modeled after those used for offshore oil drilling, could help avoid such consequences in the future. Such floating plants would be designed to be automatically flooded by the surrounding seawater in a worst-case scenario, providing sufficient cooling to indefinitely prevent any melting of fuel rods, or escape of radioactive material.

The concept is being presented this week at the Small Modular Reactors Symposium, hosted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, by MIT associate professor of nuclear science and engineering (NSE) Jacopo Buongiorno along with others from MIT, the University of Wisconsin, and Chicago Bridge and Iron, a major nuclear plant and offshore platform construction company.

Video filmed by Christopher Sherrill, courtesy of MIT Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.”

Transcript:

Speaker: Jacopo Buongiorno,
Associate Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, MIT

Today I want to tell you about a new nuclear reactor concept that we’re developing here at MIT, and that is the possibility of revolutionizing the nuclear industry both in terms of economics and safety.

This is a floating offshore nuclear power plant.

It’s a power plant that can be entirely constructed in a centralized shipyard and then towed to the site where it would be moored or anchored a few miles off the coast and link to the electric grid with a transmission line.

Now the idea of the floating plant is not entirely new. In fact, the Russian are building a floating plant themselves, but the key difference between our concept and theirs is that ours is not only floating but is sited a few miles off the coast, and this affords some absolutely crucial advantages.

First of all, tsunamis and earthquakes are no longer a source of risk for the nuclear plant because essentially the ocean shields the seismic waves. And the tsunami waves in relatively deep waters – say, 100 meter deep – are not big and so they don’t really pose a hazard for the plant.

Number two, of course, the ocean itself can be used as an infinite heat sink. And so, the decay heat which is generated by the nuclear fuel, even after the reactor is shut down, can be removed indefinitely, and this is a major advantage with respect to current terrestrial plants in which the ultimate heat sink is not assured necessarily for the very long term as demonstrated by the accident in Japan at Fukushima.

The other key safety advantage is that because of distance from shore, even if an accident should occur at the plant, it will not force people to evacuate, to move away from their homes and their jobs on shore. Because of distance, and also because of the possibility of essentially venting radioactive gases under water, therefore minimizing the impact onshore.

Now, a nice characteristic of this idea is that it combines essentially two established technologies. One is nuclear reactors – for example, light water reactors, PWI and PWR — and the other technology is offshore platforms which are currently used obviously for oil and gas exploration, exploitation, and extraction.

So we think that the combination of these two technologies give some solid ground on which we can build a plant that has good economic performance and, as I explained, an outstanding safety performance.

And we have a great team here at MIT of students, both graduates and undergraduates, as well as professors, and we’re also collaborating with other universities and with industry to develop these new concepts.

— Floating reactors: avoiding another Fukushima or creating more damage and risk? (VIDEO)

This short must-see video by MIT Associate Professor Jacopo Buongiorno. Download this video and save it.

Quotes from the article below and the video:

“The ocean is inexpensive real estate.”

“The ocean itself can be used as an infinite heat sink.

“The decay heat which is generated by the nuclear fuel, even after the reactor is shut down, can be removed indefinitely,”

Jacopo Buongiorno, MIT

The collaborators listed in the article don’t include biologists, marine biologists, meteorologists, oceanographers, or medical experts. This is an economic development project with some safety-appearing measures.

 

From RT

18 Apr, 2014

A group of American engineers proposed bringing nuclear power generating facilities out to sea, to secure them from earthquakes and tsunamis, and prevent a possible meltdown threat by submerging a reactor’s active zone.

A report by American scientists to be presented at the Small Modular Reactors Symposium, hosted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, suggests that a nuclear power plant could be built in a form of standardized floating offshore platforms similar to modern drilling oil rigs and anchored about 10km out into the ocean. Electric power would be transferred to land by underwater cables.

Jacopo Buongiorno, associate professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who led the research, believes the project has a number of crucial advantages.

The main peculiarity of the new project is that a reactor is put into the underwater part of the facility, where it would be securely cooled by seawater in case of an emergency.

“The ocean itself can be used as an infinite heat sink. The decay heat, which is generated by the nuclear fuel even after the reactor is shutdown, can be removed indefinitely,” Buongiorno said, adding that “The reactor containment itself is essentially underwater.”

Such NPP would be safe from earthquakes and also from tsunamis inflicted by aftershocks. Back in 2011, a combination of these two devastated the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, which led to breakdown of the reactors’ cooling systems and eventually ended with meltdown of two reactors’ active cores. Radioactive fallout from that catastrophe is set to contaminate the Pacific Ocean for many years to come.

Positioning the plant should also be a simple process: just tow the station to wherever it is needed and moor it to the seafloor. No need to look for a seismically safe place with plenty of water, a sea or lake, nearby as with traditional nuclear power plants.

“The ocean is inexpensive real estate,” Buongiorno said.

The all-steel sea-based construction of the facility also eliminates the need for expensive concrete works, which make up a considerable part of the cost of any nuclear power plant.

Buongiorno stressed the versatility of the project which could be adjusted to match any energy consumption need, be it 50 or 1,000 megawatts.

“It’s a flexible concept,” he said.

The personnel of the plant could work on rotating scheme, with living quarters placed atop of the facility.

When the working lifespan of such plant is expired, it could be decommissioned the same way it is currently done nuclear submarines’ reactors, a well-proven technology considerably less expensive than decommission of a ground-based nuclear power plant.

The project is being developed by MIT Professors Jacopo Buongiorno, Michael W. Golay, Neil E. Todreas and other MIT staff, with support from the University of Wisconsin, and the major US nuclear plant and offshore platform construction company Chicago Bridge and Iron.

Developers of the project believe the concept could be required by many countries, in the first place earthquake- and tsunami-prone Japan, Indonesia, Chile etc.

Russia’s floating nuclear power plant nearly complete

The idea of constructing sea-based nuclear power facilities is definitely not new yet only one country has so far managed to bring such a project to reality.

Russia is in the process of finalizing construction of a 70 megawatt floating nuclear co-generation plant named ‘Akademik Lomonosov’, after a famous Russian scientist of the 18th century. The project implies construction of a series, probably seven, of vessel-mounted, non-self-propelled autonomous power facilities.

Launched in 2010 by state-owned Rosatom nuclear energy corporation, the project is now in the final stage of construction at the Baltic shipyard in St. Petersburg.

The vessel hosting the plant is measured 140 by 30 meters and with 5.5-meter draught has a displacement of 21,500 tons. The crew of the plant consists of 70 engineers.

The power unit of the plant consists of two 35MW KLT-40C nuclear reactors and two steam-driven turbines.

The plant will be generating enough power to serve 200,000 people.

Unlike the floating plant proposed by the American engineers, ‘Akademik Lomonosov’ is not just a power generator. It also produces 300 megawatt of heat that could be transferred onshore. This will be equal to saving 200,000 tons of coal every year.

This is the major difference between the Russia’s nuclear power plant and American project, which sacrificed heat generation to security matters. An American plant moored 10 km off the coast cannot transfer hot water ashore so it will waste the heat and only warm up the waters nearby.

The facility could also be converted into desalination plant producing 240,000 cubic meters of fresh water per day, an immensely interesting solution for seaside countries with scarce water resources situated in Northern Africa and the Middle East.

The plant, with a lifespan of 40 years, will be re-fueled every three years and will have a 12-year service cycle, when the plant will undergo servicing and maintenance at the Baltic shipyard.

The equipment for the floating power plant has been developed and supplied by 136 companies and subcontractors.

Deployment of a nuclear facility out to sea have raised concerns of such environmental organizations as Greenpeace, which maintained that sea-based nuclear facility is prone to torpedo and missile attacks and could also be seized by terrorists striving to obtain nuclear materials for a ‘dirty’ nuclear bomb.

For all that Russia has well over 50 years of experience of operating nuclear powered icebreakers, nuclear submarines and other vessels, most of them specifically built for operation in the extreme conditions of the Arctic Ocean.

That’s why Rosatom is considering deployment of floating nuclear power plants to any region with either difficult weather conditions, such as the port of Pevek in the Russian Arctic or Vilyuchinsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Pacific region, notorious for frequent seismic activities.

https://www.rt.com/news/floating-nuclear-power-plant-040/

— Russia starts work on Arctic dock for 1st-ever floating nuclear power plant

The Russian Federation usually exhibits much more caution and common sense. Nuclear energy is their catastrophically huge blindspot. 

The generating unit of the world's first floating nuclear power plant Academician Lomonosov, was launched at the Baltiysky Zavod Shipyard of the United Industrial Corporation (UIC). © Alexei Danichev
The generating unit of the world’s first floating nuclear power plant Academician Lomonosov, was launched at the Baltiysky Zavod Shipyard of the United Industrial Corporation (UIC). © Alexei Danichev / Sputnik

From RT

October 7, 2016

The world’s first floating nuclear power plant is set to start producing power and heat in 2019. While the plant is already being tested, construction of the dock has begun on the Arctic coast in Russia’s Far East.

The construction works on the dock, which will host the floating nuclear power plant ‘Akademik Lomonosov’, kicked off Wednesday in the bay of the city of Pevek, Chukotka, RIA Novosti reports.

The severity of weather conditions (in winter, the temperature drops down to minus 60 degrees Celcius) obliging, the onshore facilities will be forced to endure ice impact and squalling winds. 

Road sign not far from Anadyr. © Konstantin Chalabov

Contractor company Zapsibgidrostroy’s Director-General Marat Kharisov, in charge of the construction, said the dock will be ready by October 2019.

The plant, work on which was announced back in 2007, will consist of the floating power-generating unit, the dock with onshore facilities for transmitting electricity and heat, and waterworks.

© Google maps

The facility, which is scheduled to start operating by the end of 2019, is set to replace the generating capacities of the Bilibino nuclear power plant and Chaunsky thermal power plant, which currently supply Chukotka Region with energy and heat.

According to the , the new NPP has electric power capacity of 75 MW, almost twice as much as Bilibino.

<iframe width=”766″ height=”500″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/hfoI7kIS-lY&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen><!–iframe>

The cost of the floating plant is estimated at around 30 billion rubles (US$480 million),  to Sergey Zavyalov, head of the plant construction.

The power-generating unit for ‘Akademik Lomonosov’ is currently going through dock trials at the Baltic shipyard in St. Petersburg, known for manufacturing ships of Russia’s nuclear icebreaker fleet and the world’s only shipbuilder with experience building civilian naval reactors.

The 21,000-tons unit will have two Russian-designed KLT-40S reactors, low-enriched uranium-fueled reactors used in some of Russia’s icebreakers, and two steam-driven turbines. One unit is able to provide enough electricity to power a city of 200,000 people. It can also produce 300 megawatt of heat that can be transferred onshore, equal to saving some 200,000 tons of coal every year.

The main element of Concern Energoatom project, the generating unit of the world's first floating nuclear power plant Academician Lomonosov, was launched at the Baltiysky Zavod Shipyard of the United Industrial Corporation (UIC). © 
Alexei Danichev
The main element of Concern Energoatom project, the generating unit of the world’s first floating nuclear power plant Academician Lomonosov, was launched at the Baltiysky Zavod Shipyard of the United Industrial Corporation (UIC). © Alexei Danichev / Sputnik

The FPU is not self-propelled and must be towed to the location of operation. It is a barge consisting of three decks and 10 compartments. Apart from reactors, it is equipped with storage facilities for fresh and spent nuclear fuel, as well as liquid and solid nuclear waste.

Experts have praised floating power plants for being secure from earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as from meltdown threats, as the reactor’s active zone is underwater.

Reactor units are small and self-contained. They are nothing like those installed at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, of course. A scenario like that at the Fukushima power plant is also excluded,” Professor Georgy Tikhomirov of the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute recently  EFE news agency.

The crew of the plant consists of 70 engineers.

It’s like a journey on a cruise ship. The staff will be living on the platform in four-star hotel conditions, with all the amenities, because they have to spend a whole year in the cabins,” Tikhomirov added.

The FPU will have a service life of up to 40 years, with three operating cycles of 12 years. After each cycle the unit will be towed to the shipyard for repairs, defueling, refueling and radioactive waste removal.

The concept of floating nuclear power generating facilities is not new, with the US and  announcing research in the sphere lately, but ‘Akademik Lomonosov’ may become the first such facility actually to go into operation.

The deployment of nuclear facilities out to sea, however, also raises concerns of environmentalists, who warn that despite claims they answer all security guidelines for nuclear power facilities, these guidelines were written when the concept did not yet exist and thus should be revised.

Greenpeace, for instance,  that a sea-based nuclear facility is prone to torpedo and missile attacks, and could also be seized by terrorists who could use nuclear materials to create a nuclear bomb.

— Fukushima decommissioning costs soar to at least $24bn

From RT

October 26, 2016

Cleanup costs of the devastated Fukushima nuclear plant over the next three decades will be far more than TEPCO previously estimated. An expert panel is now considering ways to avoid increasing the “public burden.”

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has estimated that it will cost around 80-billion yen ($770 million) annually to clean up the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. But a new study released by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry says that the cost to complete a 30-year decommissioning process is likely to cost far more than the two trillion yen ($19 billion) initially estimated by TEPCO, Kyodo News reported.

The ministry said that decommissioning costs will continue to run at several hundred billion yen a year, totalling at least 2.5 trillion yen ($24 billion).

“The panel is considering ways in which TEPCO can secure funds while avoiding an increase in public burden,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference. “It is still discussing the issue.”

The nuclear plant operator did not comment on the government projection, as the company is still trying to work out the total cleanup cost figures.

“It is difficult to calculate the entire cost for the decommissioning,” TEPCO spokesman Shinichi Nakakuki said, as quoted by Japan Today.

The two-trillion-yen figure previously estimated by TEPCO factored in expenses for removing nuclear debris based on the cleanup effort of the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear incident in the US. That estimate also included the costs and equipment needed to keep the reactors at Fukushima stable, the spokesman stressed.

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake struck northeastern Japan at 2:46pm local time, unleashing a deadly tsunami. At the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the tsunami caused a cooling system failure resulting in a nuclear meltdown and release of radioactive materials.

Five years after the disaster, TEPCO faces massive liabilities as it decommissions the facility, compensates tens of thousands of evacuees, and pays for decontamination of the area.

The firm has cut its costs and raised prices, but its long-term sustainability remains in doubt. To cope with the financial pressure, TEPCO was forced to seek government assistance in July.

https://www.rt.com/news/364121-fukushima-decommission-cost-soar/

— France: Forced closures of nuclear plants cause soaring energy prices

From Zero Hedge

French ‘Shocked’ As Power Prices Spike To 8-Year Highs On Nuclear Reactor Probe Shutdown

— The nuclear cattle of Fukushima

Inspiring story. The Japanese people have very deep connections to the land, which farmers have maintained. This is one of the greatest tragedies of the Fukushima disaster — the disruption of the thousands years old relationship, and the dislocation of an ancient people from their ancestral lands.

From CNN

Some families have at least one relative who’s either odd or eccentric. Others boast family members of a more unusual kind.

That’s what one filmmaker discovered in 2011 when he heard of a group of former farmers in Fukushima‘s nuclear exclusion zone, fighting to keep their radiation-affected cows alive, though they brought them no profit.
“The farmers think of these cows as family. They know that these cows can’t be sold, but they don’t want to kill them just because they’re not worth anything,” Tamotsu Matsubara, who made a film called ‘Nuclear Cattle’ (Hibaku Ushi) on their plight, told CNN.
It costs around 2,000 dollars to maintain each cow for a year. The farmers featured in Matsubara’s film are among those who refused to obey the Japanese government’s initial requests to euthanize cows in the exclusion zone.
“[These farmers] really want them to serve a greater purpose for humans and for science,” explained Matsubara.

Nuclear Cattle — chart on CNN website of location of farms in relation to the disaster

On March 11 2011, a 15-meter tsunami triggered by a 8.9-magnitude earthquake, disabled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima, causing a nuclear accident.
Residents within a 20 km radius of the facility were forced to evacuate their homes and leave behind their livelihoods and possessions.
Before leaving, some farmers released their cows so they could roam free and survive in the nuclear fallout-affected area. 1,400, however, died from starvation, while the government euthanized 1,500 more.
Since 2011, Matsubara has documented both the relationship six farmers have with their surviving herds as well as an ongoing study examining the effects radiation has on large mammals.
The farmers — who return two or three times a week to their former farms — initially kept their cows alive just out of love. But since 2013, Keiji Okada, an animal science expert at Iwate University, has been carrying out tests on them.
Okada established the Society for Animal Refugee & Environment post-Nuclear Disaster, a non-profit with researchers from Kitazato, Tohoku and Tokyo university. The researchers are funded through their universities, and say their project is the first to look into the effects of radiation on large animals.
“Large mammals are different to bugs and small birds, the genes affected by radiation exposure can repair more easily that it’s hard to see the effects of radiation,” Okada, told CNN.
“We really need to know what levels of radiation have a dangerous effect on large mammals and what levels don’t,” he added.
So far, the cows living within the exclusion zone haven’t shown signs of leukemia or cancer — two diseases usually associated with high levels of radiation exposure. Some, however, have white spots on their hides. Their human minders suspect that these are the side-effects of radiation exposure.
As Japan continues to confront its nuclear past, present and future, Okada said his group’s study would keep the country prepared in the event of another disaster.
“We need to know what levels of radiation are safe and dangerous for large mammals, and have that data ready so that the euthanization of livestock can be kept to the minimum,” added Okada.

The ‘cows of hope’

Elderly farmers feeds their radiation-affected cows in the exclusion zone.

Since 2011, the Japanese government has taken measures to decontaminate radiation-affected zones within Fukushima by stripping surface soil from contaminated zones and by cleansing asphalt roads and playgrounds.
Evacuation notices have also lifted on some towns in Fukushima. Taichi Goto, a spokesperson from the Ministry of the Environment’s Office for Decontamination told CNN that Namie, a town currently in the exclusion zone, was scheduled to be decontaminated by March 2017. Yet critics point that the state’s measures still aren’t enough.
Matsubara acknowledged the government’s decontamination work but asserted that it was impossible for them to clear the mountainous areas west of the exclusion zone.
While some farmers have slowly started to rebuild their lives by starting new businesses in decontaminated areas in Fukushima, the campaign to keep alive irradiated cows within the exclusion zone continues.
“These cows are the witnesses of the nuclear accident,” Masami Yoshikawa, who lives in Namie town in the heart of the exclusion zone, states in Nuclear Cattle.
“They’re the cows of hope.”
More photos on website.
Posted under Fair Use Rules.

— France’s nuclear power stations ‘at risk of catastrophic failure’ — Sizewell B and 27 other EDF nuclear plants

Global Research, October 01, 2016
The Ecologist 29 September 2016
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A new review of the safety of France’s nuclear power stations has found that at least 18 of EDF’s units are are ”operating at risk of major accident due to carbon anomalies.”

The review was carried out at the request of Greenpeace France following the discovery of serious metallurgical flaws by French regulators in a reactor vessel at Flamanville, where an EPR plant is under construction.

The problem is that parts of the vessel and its cap contain high levels of carbon, making the metal brittle and potentially subject to catastrophic failure. These key components were provided by French nuclear engineering firm Areva, and forged at its Le Creusot.

“The nature of the flaw in the steel, an excess of carbon, reduces steel toughness and renders the components vulnerable to fast fracture and catastrophic failure putting the NPP at risk of a major radioactive release to the environment”, says nuclear safety expert John Large, whose consultancy Large Associates (LA) carried out the Review.

His report examines how the defects in the Flamanville EPR reactor pressure vessel came about during the manufacturing process, and escaped detection for years after forging. It then goes on to investigate what other safety-critical nuclear components might be suffering from the same defects.

Steam generators at 28 EDF nuclear sites at risk

After several months of investigation LA found that critical components of a further 28 nuclear plants were forged by Le Creusot using the same process. These are found in the steam generators – large, pod-like boilers – that have been installed at operational EDF nuclear power stations across France.

The conclusion is based on documents provided by IRSN (the independent French Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire) that reject assurances given by both EDF and Areva that there is no safety risk from steam generators containing the excess carbon flaw.

In August 2016, IRSN warned the French nuclear safety regulator Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN) that:

  • EdF’s submission was incomplete;
  • there is a risk of abrupt rupture which could lead to a reactor core fuel melt; and
  • immediate “compensatory” measures need to be put in place to safeguard the operational NPPs involved.

“As a result of Areva’s failures, a significant share of the French nuclear reactor fleet is at increased risk of severe radiological accident, including fuel core meltdown”, said Large. ”However, there is no simple or quick fix to this problem.

“The testing and inspection regime currently underway by Areva and EDF is incapable of detecting the extent and severity of the carbon problem and, moreover, it cannot ensure against the risk of rapid component failure. It is most certain that the IRSN finding will equally applies to replacement steam generators exported by Areva to overseas nuclear power plants around the world.”

EDF reactors face protracted closure, credit rating falls

EDF stated yesterday that it will carry out further tests on 12 nuclear reactors during their planned outages in the coming months – and that extended periods of outage are to be expected. “There are outages that could take longer than planned”, an EDF spokesman told Reuters.

“In 2015, we discovered the phenomenon of carbon segregation in the Flammanville EPR reactor. We decided to verify other equipments in the French nuclear park to make sure that other components are not impacted by the phenomenon.”

In anticipation of the nuclear closures, year-ahead electricity prices rose in the French wholesale power market, forcing power rises across Europe up to a one-year high.

Meanwhile Moody’s has downgraded EDF credit ratings across a spectrum of credit instruments. EDF’s long-term issuer and senior unsecured ratings fell from A2 to A3 while perpetual junior subordinated debt ratings fell to Baa3 from Baa2. Moody’s also  downgraded the group’s short-term ratings to Prime-2 from Prime-1.

According to Moody’s,

“the rating downgrade reflects its view that the action plan announced by EDF in April 2016, which includes government support, will not be sufficient to fully offset the adverse impact of the incremental risks associated the Hinkley Point C (HPC) project on the group’s credit profile.

“Moody’s believes that the significant scale and complexity of the HPC project will affect the group’s business and financial risk profiles. This is because the HPC project will expose EDF and its partner China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN, A3 negative) to significant construction risk as the plant will use the same European Pressurised reactor (EPR) technology that has been linked with material cost overruns and delays at Flamanville in France and Olkiluoto 3 in Finland. In addition, none of the four plants using the EPR technology currently constructed globally is operational yet.”

Once rating agencies have had time to evaluate the seriousness of EDF’s current problems with reactors packed with unsafe crirical components, further downgrades may follow. “The ratings could be downgraded if (1) credit metrics fall below Moody’s guidance for the A3 rating; or (2) EDF were to be significantly exposed to AREVA NP’s liabilities”, the agency warns.

Flamanville EPR heading for the scrapheap

The Review also shows that the reactor pressure vessel of the Flamanville EPR, which is already installed, does not have a Certificate of Conformity issued by ASN. This means that it does not comply with the European Directive on Pressure Equipment, nor does it meet the mandatory requirement of the ASN, which since 2008, stipulates that any new nuclear reactor coolant circuit component has to have a Certificate of Conformity before its production commences.

“Without a Certificate of Conformity the reactor pressure vessel and steam generators currently installed in Flamanville 3 will almost certainly have to be scrapped”, said Roger Spautz, responsible for nuclear campaign at Greenpeace France.

The review, he added, ”reveals evidence that at the Creusot Forge plant, Areva did not have the technical qualifications required to meet exacting nuclear safety standards. The plant was not under effective control and therefore had not mastered the necessary procedures for maintaining the exacting standards for quality control in the manufacture of safety-critical nuclear components.”

Areva has now acknowledged that ineffective quality controls at le Creusot Forge were mainly responsible not only for the flaws in the Flamanvile 3 EPR, but across other operational nuclear power plans – and that the technical failures date back to 1965.

Moreover, ASN has indicated that in the nuclear components supply chain three examples of Counterfeit, Fraudulent and Substandard Items (CFSI) have occurred in the year ending 2015.

The recent ASN publication (24th September 2016) of a list of the NPPs affected by the AREVA anomalies and irregularities demonstrates that the phenomenon not only has reached alarming proportions but is continuing to grow under scrutiny.

The number of components affected by irregularities and installed in NPPs in operation increased by 50 in April 2016 from 33 to 83 by 24th September this year. Irregularities affecting the Flamanville EPR increased from two to 20 over the same period.

Also at risk: Sizewell B, Hinkley C finance, Taishan EPRs

LA’s Review also relates these developments in France to the UK, specifically: the currently operating Sizewell B NPP in Suffolk; and the now contracted construction programme for the Hinkley Point C NPP.

Sizewell B which includes a number of components sourced from Le Creusot which need urgent examination and / or replacement in order to prevent unsafe operation. The fact that this could escape the UK’s nuclear regulators also indicates, says Large, that “the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) did not delve deep enough into the situation as now revealed by ASN.”

As for For Hinkley Point C, it now appears inevitable that the Flamanville reactor will not be completeted by its target date of the end of 2020, indeed it may very well never be completed at all. Under the terms of agreement for the plant’s construction accepted by the European Commission, this would render the UK government unable to extend promised credit guarantees to HPC’s financial backers.

“Now that ASN has deprioritized efforts on the under-construction Flamanville 3 NPP because of its pressing urgency to evaluate the risk situation for the operating NPPs”, says Large, ”there is a greater likelihood that Flamanville 3 will not reach the deadline for operation and validation of its technology by the UK Credit Guarantee cut-off date of December 2020.”

Also at risk are the two EPRs that Areva and EDF are currently constructing at Taishan in China. These are now at the most advanced stage of any EPR projects in the world, however there are increasing fears that they contain faulty components.

The vessels and domes at Taishan were also supplied by Areva, and manufactured by the same process as that utilised by Le Creusot. It is suspected that Chinese nuclear regulators may have decided to overlook this problem and hope for the best. However if they discover that the steam generators, which along with the reactor vessels have already been installed, are also at risk of catastrophic failure, that might prove a risk too far – even for China.

The danger for EDF and Areva is that the massive commercial liabilities they may be accruing for faulty reactors supplied to third parties, together with the tens of billions of euros of capital write-downs for projects they have to abandon, and the loss of generation revenues due to plant outages, could easily exceed their entire market capitalisation.

In other words: for EDF, Areva, their shareholders and the entire French nuclear industry, the end really could be nigh.

Oliver Tickell is contributing editor at The Ecologist.