ASN has presented its report on "The State of Nuclear Safety and Radiological Protection in France in 2009" to the French Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technical Choices (OPECST) (I)
Nuclear safety: "Fairly satisfactory"
Nuclear medicine: "Progress in radiotherapy"
The ASN Commission and its president, André-Claude Lacoste, today presented the ASN report on "The State of Nuclear Safety and Radiological Protection in France in 2009" to Members of Parliament from the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technical Choices (OPECST).
This hearing took place at the National Assembly in the presence of the press. It is written into the procedures of ASN that it should report, in particular to Parliament, on the state of nuclear safety and radiological protection in France.
This hearing, the third since the change of status of ASN, provided the opportunity to address the noteworthy events of the year 2009, as well as the outlook and issues concerning nuclear safety and radiological protection in France and the rest of the world.
ASN highlighted that:
In terms of nuclear safety:
The year 2009 had been, like the preceding years, fairly satisfactory in the area of nuclear facilities.
However, it was marked by two level-2 incidents relating to criticality, one in the MELOX plant at Marcoule and the other in the Plutonium Technology Workshop (ATPu) at Cadarache. Some defects have also been noticed on the steam generators of nuclear power plants.
In the area of radiotherapy,
ASN notes an improvement in the safety of radiotherapy treatments compared to preceding years, although the situation at different radiotherapy centres remains non-uniform. Another area of concern is interventional radiology, particularly for certain neurological and cardiac procedures, because the radiation doses delivered to the patients can be high.
ASN sees the outlook and issues for the future as:
The safety of nuclear reactors is an important issue for ASN.
The third series of ten-year inspections of 900 MWe reactors commenced in 2009 for the Tricastin 1 and Fessenheim 1 reactors and will be completed around 2020 for the reactors at the Chinon power station. In its position statement of July 2009, ASN did not identify any generic problems, citing the capacity of EDF to control the safety of these reactors up to an age of 40 years. This generic statement from ASN will be supplemented by a reactor-by-reactor statement taking account of the results of the third series of ten-year inspections.
EDF has expressed the desire to operate its reactors beyond 40 years. To consider this request, ASN will refer to the EPR system safety objective.
Regarding EPR, the safety examination of this reactor is part of an interactive process, the industrialists proposing solutions and ASN taking a position on these proposals. The position taken by ASN in October 2009 on the instrumentation and control of the EPR is one step in this iterative process. At the same time, ASN is exercising vigilance over the construction conditions of the EPR at Flamanville through analysis of documents and safety.
The ASN is paying equal attention to the governance of the EPR planned at Penly: the operator must display, pursuant to the law concerning nuclear transparency and safety, the appropriate skills and financial resources which are indispensable for the construction, operation and dismantling of the reactor.
With regards to medical imaging, ASN has asked professionals to strengthen the justification for examinations in order to eliminate non-useful examinations, and to optimise them by delivering a radiation dose which is as low as possible whilst still being compatible with a high-quality examination.
Finally, it is the ASN’s desire that the research work on radiosensitivity which is responsible for secondary effects or complications of radiotherapy, be encouraged and financed.
In the field of radiotherapy, the inspections report for the year 2008, published in 2009, shows an improvement but still some deficiencies in the safety of procedures. ASN continues to note the shortage of manpower and will take care to strengthen the resources in medical radio physics.
ASN intends to fully meet its responsibilities as a Regulatory Authority.
Hence, it declared a suspension to dismantling operations in the ATPu, after the discovery of a significant mass of plutonium retained in the gloves boxes, and the suspension of several radiotherapy centres.
The ASN's objective is to contribute to the strengthening of nuclear safety and radiological protection worldwide. It has strongly invested in its relationships with its foreign counterparts. It has made major contributions to the preparation of the European directive for the safety of nuclear installations, dated 25 June 2009. ASN also actively contributes to the work of WENRA (Western European Nuclear Regulators' Association) which will result in 2010 in the harmonisation of the safety of reactors operating in Europe. In the field of radiological protection, the work of HERCA (Heads of European Radiation Control Authorities), in which ASN participates, has strengthened European co-operation.