ASN 2013 Report: “the state of nuclear safety and radiation protection in France has remained on the whole relatively satisfactory”
On 15th April, ASN presented its report on the state of nuclear safety and radiation protection in France in 2013 to the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices (OPECST) in the National Assembly’s premises.
On 16th April, ASN also held a press conference at its headquarters in Montrouge for about forty journalists from the international, national and regional press.
The ASN Commission and its Chairman, Pierre-Franck Chevet, presented the state of nuclear safety and radiation protection in France in 2013, before reviewing ASN, its roles and the strategic priorities for nuclear safety and radiation protection in 2014.
The main points of the ASN report for 2013 are:
- The year is generally speaking on a par with previous years and ASN identified no new major problems. The number of incidents notified remained stable. From this viewpoint, the current situation is on the whole relatively satisfactory.
- With regard to EDF’s nuclear power plants, ASN observed that in 2013, as in 2012, there was a significant rise in the duration of reactor maintenance outages. This situation, which can have prejudicial impacts on safety, must be the focus of priority action on the part of EDF. The rigorousness of day-to-day operations is a point that needs to be improved further. ASN applauds the efforts made by EDF concerning on-site emergency plans. With regard to the environment, ASN still observes numerous deviations on all the NPPs.
- The EDF sites which stand out favourably are: the Penly and Golfech sites with respect to nuclear safety. The Penly, Golfech and Civaux sites with respect to radiation protection. The Dampierre site stands out with respect to the environment. Among the sites which fall short are: Chinon, Bugey and Civaux in the field of nuclear safety; the Cattenom site in the field of radiation protection; the Belleville, Chinon and Chooz sites in the field of environmental protection.
- With regard to the installations of the Areva group, ASN considers that efforts must be continued, particularly for the recovery and packaging of legacy waste on the La Hague site. For the Romans-sur-Isère fuel fabrication site (FBFC), ASN will conduct reinforced oversight of the facility in 2014 in order to improve the nuclear safety performance of this licensee. This reinforced oversight will in particular include the organisation of an in-depth inspection at the end of the year.
- With regard to CEA, ASN considers that the “major commitments” approach it has been implementing for the past 4 years, needs to be continued and reinforced. Any postponement must be duly justified and be discussed beforehand with ASN. For facilities which have undergone partial review or reinforcement, justified by the imminence of an outage, such as Osiris, Eole and Minerve, ASN will be attentive to compliance with the schedules proposed by CEA. ASN will remain vigilant in ensuring that CEA performs exhaustive periodic safety reviews of its facilities so that ASN can conduct its examination in satisfactory conditions.
- In the medical field, the ASN inspections in radiotherapy centres confirm that the trend is on the whole positive, with an increase in human resources in medical radiation physics. The improvement in the management of the safety and quality of the care given to patients is encouraging, even if it varies widely. With regard to medical imaging, the management of exposure to ionising radiation is a priority objective for ASN. The inspections carried out by ASN in the field of imaging, as well as the experience feedback from the events notified to it, highlighted shortcomings in the optimisation of practices. Progress in this field notably involves more detailed knowledge of the doses delivered, checks on the quality of the imaging equipment and an increase in the numbers of medical physicists.
The ASN Chairman, Pierre-Franck Chevet, underlined the unprecedented stakes for the future:
"The operating life extension of the existing reactors beyond the fourth ten-yearly safety review is anything but a foregone conclusion".
Several vital conditions must be met. Firstly, the equipment important for safety, such as the reactor vessel or the containment, must continue to meet the requirements set for them. The facilities must also be reassessed in the light of the most recent safety requirements which apply to the new generation of reactors, such as the EPR. Finally, the improvements requested further to the stress tests carried out after the Fukushima accident must be implemented.
The ASN Chairman specified that the periodic safety reviews held every ten years are one of the cornerstones of safety in France, requiring that the licensee not only maintain the level of safety of its facility, but also improve it. The dates of the ten-yearly outages are not aligned with the ten-year anniversaries of the reactors, as a first intermediate review is held shortly after commissioning. About six months after the ten-yearly inspection, the licensee sends a report containing the safety review conclusions for the reactor examined by ASN. Following the examination, ASN issues a position statement on the licensee’s report and can prescribe additional requirements.
"A nuclearaccident is always possible”.
Therefore,"management of an accident is a key subject on which progress must be made".
Mr Chevet stated. After Chernobyl, the Fukushima accident showed that over and above all the safety measures designed to prevent such accidents and mitigate their consequences, preparations must be made at the international level to deal with large-scale, long-term emergencies. "Such emergencies in Europe would concern several countries and we absolutely must work to harmonise our emergency management procedures, which are at present based on different technical decision-making criteria". Furthermore, in addition to the prime responsibility of the licensee for on-site management of a nuclear accident, ASN considers that exceptional emergency management provisions must be adopted in Europe, enabling the safety regulator of the country in which an accident were to occur to benefit from increased human resources.
- With regard to the deep geological disposal of high and intermediate level, long-lived radioactive waste (HLW/ILW-LL), ASN will not be able to issue a position statement on any particular project until its safety has been conclusively demonstrated. In this respect, the characteristics of the site chosen, the steps taken with regard to reversibility and the inventory of waste to be accepted by the repository, will be decisive factors. ASN will ensure that the safety of the operation of low and intermediate level, long-lived waste (LLW/ILW-LL) storage facilities is maintained for the long-term, to take account of the inevitable uncertainties regarding the time-frame for the actual availability of a deep geological disposal facility.
- Radon, a gas that can cause lung cancer, is a subject of considerable concern for ASN, because it makes a major contribution to the French population’s exposure to ionising radiation, albeit with significant local variations. Within the framework of the health-environment plan, ASN focuses on radon detection and mitigation, in other words, measures to reduce its concentration in establishments open to the public in the 31 French départements considered to be priorities owing to their radon emanation levels.
- In order to meet these unprecedented challenges, the ASN Chairman Pierre-Franck Chevet stated that in the energy transition context, the nuclear safety and radiation protection oversight system needed to be strengthened:
- By widening ASN’s powers of enforcement so that it can achieve progress in nuclear safety and radiation protection by the use of tools such as lump-sum financial penalties and additional daily fines in the event of a confirmed rule violation.
By modifying the system of financing of ASN and its technical support organisation, IRSN, in a way that is appropriate, adaptable, long-lasting and under the control of Parliament.
In a context of extremely tight budgets, the payment of a "nuclear safety" contribution by the major nuclear licensees would be able to meet the additional needs identified (about 200 people and €50 M).
The energy transition bill is an opportunity to take a significant step forward in this respect.
In 2013, ASN carried out 2,191 inspections:678 inspections in the BNIs; 86 inspections on pressure equipment; 131 inspections on transport operations, 1,165 inspections in small-scale nuclear facilities and 131 inspections of approved organisations and laboratories.
In 2013, ASN was notified of the following:
- 1,110 significant events concerning BNIs;
- 51 significant events concerning the transport of radioactive substances;
- 154 significant events concerning small-scale nuclear facilities (medical and industrial).
- In 2013, 103 events were rated level 1 on the INES scale and 2 events were rated level 2.
Contact: Evangelia Petit, Head of the Press Department, tel: (+33) 1 46 16 41 42 firstname.lastname@example.org