ASN Report on the State of Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection in France in 2015

Published on 27/05/2016 • 09:20 am

Press release

Even if the safety of nuclear facilities in 2015 has been maintained at a high level, the context for the future  remains preoccupying

 Radiation protection requires particular vigilance, especially in the medical sector

On 25th May, ASN presented its report on the state of nuclear safety and radiation protection in France in 2015 to Parliament (Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices (OPECST).

ASN considers that the operational safety of nuclear facilities in 2015 was maintained at a high level, but that radiation protection nonetheless requires particular vigilance, especially in the medical sector, in which about ten level 2 incidents occurred in 2015.

In 2015, in the field of nuclear safety, ASN issued a generic position statement on the third ten-yearly periodic safety reviews for the 1300 MWe reactors and continued to examine the file concerning the continued operation of the 900 MWe reactors beyond their fourth ten-yearly periodic safety reviews, in other words after forty years of operation.

Of the EDF sites, Saint-Laurent-des-Eaux, Penly and Fessenheim stand out positively in several respects. The Cruas and Gravelines sites would appear to be under-performing.

ASN issued a position statement on the test programme designed to characterise the carbon positive segregations in the EPR vessel head and asked EDF to supplement the commissioning authorisation application file for this reactor.

ASN also issued an opinion on the cost of the radioactive waste deep geological disposal project (Cigeo) and notified the licensees concerned, Areva and CEA, of its requirements regarding the “hardened safety core”.

ASN issued various prescriptions to address a number of unsatisfactory situations, for example the recovery of legacy waste from La Hague, prevention of the fire risk in the facility operated in Saclay by CIS bio international and the tightness of the Bugey reactor 5 containment.

However, this positive assessment for 2015 is more complex than it might at first appear, because the context is a worrying one, with concerns for the future. This view is based on three observations:

  • the safety and radiation protection challenges will only become greater over the period 2015-2020:
    • ASN’s generic opinion on the possible continued operation of the 900 MWe reactors beyond their fourth periodic safety review will not be issued before the end of 2018, following assessment of the studies still to be carried out by EDF;
    • by the end of 2017, ASN will have to begin to deal with about fifty safety review files for other major nuclear facilities, more specifically fuel cycle facilities and research reactors;
    • deployment of the improvements to the facilities prescribed in the wake of the Fukushima-Daiichi accident will have to continue;
    • the projects or construction work on new facilities - EPR, Cigeo, RJH, ITER – are falling behind schedule. The Flamanville EPR vessel anomaly was discovered belatedly as a result of requests submitted by ASN. The Areva test programme is in progress and ASN will issue its opinion once it is completed. This anomaly enabled a wide-ranging verification to be made of the quality of past manufacturing operations.
  • the main firms concerned - Areva, CEA, EDF - who have prime responsibility for the safety of their facilities, are experiencing economic or financial difficulties. Extensive reorganisations are under way and time will be needed for them to take full effect.
  • In 2016, ASN and the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) did not receive the additional manpower needed to address these challenges.

In these conditions, ASN will give priority to regulating and overseeing the facilities in operation rather than examining new ones.

In the field of medical radiation protection, ASN produced a summary in 2015 of the steps taken to manage the doses of ionising radiation delivered to patients. The results are mixed; they reveal the development of good practices, but inadequate human resources.

Monitoring dose management in medical imaging remains a major objective, in particular for computed tomography, owing to the significant contribution by this examination to the exposure of the French population, and for interventional radiology, owing to the significant radiation protection issues for the patients and professionals concerned by these increasingly frequently prescribed procedures.

In the field of radiotherapy, new hypofractionated treatment techniques which administer high energy levels in often very small volumes are challenges for the coming years. ASN will ensure that the recommendations concerning these new techniques made in 2015 by its Advisory Committee for radiation protection in medical and forensic applications of ionising radiation are implemented in order to enhance the safety and protection of the patients.

In this demanding context, thought must be given to the financing of this regulation and monitoring in order to ensure that ASN and IRSN have the long-term human and financial resources appropriate to these new challenges.

In 2015, the Energy Transition for Green Growth Act, known as the TECV Act, represents a significant step forward for nuclear safety and radiation protection: it extends the duties and powers of ASN and reinforces the role of IRSN; it consolidates the role of the local information committees and more generally the provisions concerning the information and involvement of the public.

ASN is increasing transparency on the subjects under its responsibility, jointly with the other players and stakeholders. In 2016, it is in particular in charge of preparations for the information and iodine tablets distribution campaign intended for the populations living around the EDF nuclear power plants. The aim of the campaign is to inform the public of the nuclear risk, of all the appropriate protection measures and in particular the taking of iodine tablets in the event of an accident.

Key figures in 2015:

  • 483 staff, nearly half of whom are in the 11 regional divisions;
  • 268 inspectors spread around the regional divisions and the departments;
  • 82% management;
  • Total budget of about €165M, of which 85 is devoted to expert assessment work;
  • 1,882 inspections in nuclear facilities; transports of radioactive substances ; the medical, industrial and research sectors; approved organisations;
  • 16,694 inspection follow-up letters published on the website as at 31st December 2015.
  • €80.11 million total budget for ASN;
  • €85 million of the IRSN budget devoted to expert assessment work for ASN.

Contact: Evangelia Petit, Head of the Press Department, tel: (+33) 1 46 16 41 42

Date of last update : 08/06/2017