ASN New Year’s greetings to the press
At the presentation of the first findings and the marking events of the year 2020, ASN delivers three messages:
- the need to uphold a culture of anticipation and precaution in all the players involved in nuclear activities
- the need to focus particular attention on maintaining key industrial capabilities to cope with the work required to enhance the safety of the facilities in operation
- the importance of the 5th PNGMDR creating real prospects of safe and sustainable management routes for all types of waste by 2035/2040
On 21 January, by video conference on account of the Covid-19 crisis, ASN presented its greetings to the press through its Chairman, Mr. Bernard Doroszczuk.
The ASN Chairman underlined that in 2020, "the safety of nuclear facilities remained at a satisfactory level on the whole for all the operators, and even progressed in terms of operating rigour, particularly with EDF, in the singular context induced by the management of the health crisis".
Mr. Doroszczuk drew attention to three findings that temper this broadly positive assessment:
• At EDF, the regression in worker radiation protection observed in 2019 continued and worsened in 2020, while the anomalies affecting items of equipment and which could have jeopardised their ability to fulfil their functions in the event of an accident persisted.
• At Orano, the improvements in the prevention of fire risks and in the legacy waste retrieval and packaging operations on some facilities are still too slow.
• At the CEA, new schedule slippages were observed, along with serious delays in its strategy for decommissioning the old facilities presenting the greatest risks, on which ASN and ASND made position statements in 2019.
These general findings are accompanied by three main facts:
• The year 2020 was incontestably marked by the Covid-19 crisis. ASN considers that the nuclear licensees and the persons responsible for medical activities showed great responsiveness and adaptability in coping with this situation, and that the level of safety and radiation protection remained generally satisfactory during the crisis situation.
Nevertheless, vigilance is still the watchword. The postponement of numerous activities decided in spring 2020, combined with new restrictive measures imposed in autumn on account of the pandemic, resulted in a difficult situation for the nuclear licensees and persons responsible for activities using ionising radiation. And this situation persists in this start of the year. The rescheduling of reactor outages means that particular vigilance is necessary with regard to regulatory deadlines and applicable requirements.
ASN remains attentive to the measures, whether organisational or material, taken in the activities to ensure safety and radiation protection. It considers that the first lessons learned from the problems encountered during this health crisis confirm the need for all the nuclear activity players to maintain a culture of anticipation and precaution.
• The year 2020 saw significant progress in examining the continued operation of the EDF's 900 MWe reactors beyond 40 years. The draft resolution concerning the generic part of this safety review is open to public consultation until 22 January, and ASN will draw its conclusions from this.
At the present stage, ASN considers that the measures planned by EDF will enable the objectives of the safety review to be achieved, and bring the safety of the 900 MWe reactors to a level approaching that of third-generation reactors.
Achieving these objectives should make feasible the prospective continued operation of the reactors for ten years following their 4th periodic safety review.
ASN wishes to emphasise that the main point requiring particular attention is the industrial capacity of EDF and the nuclear sector players to cope with the significant increase in the volume of work that is vital to ensure the safety of the facilities in operation.
In the current sanitary and economic crisis situation, the State and the ordering customers must be particularly attentive to maintaining the key industrial capacities of the sector.
• The preparation of the 5th PNGMDR represents an important challenge. ASN and the Ministry for Ecological Transition published a joint resolution on 21 February 2020 setting out the broad lines for the preparation of the PNGMDR (French National Radioactive Material and Waste Management Plan). ASN has decided, in agreement with the Ministry for Ecological Transition, to cease its role as co-owner of the plan, which constitutes a management policy document that is the responsibility of the government. It has thus refocused its action on the assessment and oversight of the existing radioactive material and waste management routes to ensure that they are safe. In 2020 ASN issued several opinions per management route concerning VLLW (very low level waste), LLW-LL (low-level long-lived waste), radioactive material and HLW-LL (high-level long-lived waste).
ASN considers, on the basis of the work and studies carried out in the previous issues of the plan, that this 5th PNGMDR should aim to be the "plan of solutions", making it possible to build real prospects of safe and sustainable management of all the types of waste by 2035/2040.
Press contact: Evangelia Petit, head of press department, tel.: (+33) 1 46 16 41 42 and (+33) 6 84 63 35 47, evangelia. petit@asn. fr.