ASN has presented its report on “the status of nuclear safety and radiological protection in France in 2009” to the OPECST (II).

Published on 09/04/2010 • 04:28 pm

Information notice

ASN presented its report on “the status of nuclear safety and radiological protection in France in 2009” to the members of the French Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technical Choices (OPECST). The hearing provided an ideal forum for in-depth discussions with Members of Parliament and the press on many issues concerning nuclear safety, medical practices, harmonising international safety standards and ASN's freedom of operation.

ASN particularly stressed a number of points in the following areas:

  • Small-scale nuclear activities, including radiotherapy:
    • Progress has been made in radiotherapy compared with previous years, although situations vary from one radiotherapy centre to another. Within this context, ASN temporarily suspended the activities of radiotherapy centres in 2009 in Blois, Gap, Roanne, Croix, Nevers and Saint-Germain-Poissy, until conditions at the centres guaranteed safe treatment and, more especially, radiation physicists and radiotherapy technicians were available in sufficient number. Two centres remain closed.
    • There is a rising number of medical examinations and treatments where patients are exposed to ionising radiation, which is dangerous above a certain threshold. This induces a probabilistic risk of developing cancer from exposure to at least 100 mSv in adults and 50 mSv in children. These values are no longer in the low-dose range. Steps must be taken to toughen requirements concerning the justification and optimisation of radiological examinations and to promote the development of MRI in France to control the rise in medical radiation doses.

ASN also emphasised that the shortage of medical physicists undermined radiotherapy in France, which was generally of good quality. This situation should be addressed not only by increasing the number of new medical physicists, but also by giving the profession enhanced status to reflect the difficulties presented by high-tech physics in the medical field. It would therefore seem essential to set up a university course, including, in particular, practical training courses for future radiation physicists.

  • Nuclear safety in France:
    • The year was quite satisfactory overall. It was marked, however, by two level-2 criticality incidents, one at the MELOX plant in Marcoule and the other at the Plutonium Technology Workshop (ATPu) in Cadarache. Defects were also observed in nuclear power plant steam generators.
    • Safety at EDF power plants (19 sites):
      • five sites are ahead of the others: Golfech, Bugey, Gravelines, Penly and Civaux.
      • four sites are lagging: Saint-Alban, Chinon, Flamanville and Belleville.
    • In addition, the operator will have to take corrective action for environmental protection, particularly concerning non-radioactive release.
    • Fuel cycle facilities: several incidents point to weaknesses in safety organisation and radiation protection at certain AREVA facilities. ASN expects stricter compliance with declaration criteria and event reporting deadlines.
    • CEA: responding to the ATPu incident, ASN reminded the operator of the need to control its facilities more closely. It also asked CEA to continue its “major commitments” initiative, which is aimed at achieving more effective management of complex projects where nuclear safety and radiation protection play a significant part. In this respect, CEA needs to devote the necessary budgetary and human resources to fulfil these major commitments.
       The assessment of plutonium deposits in glove boxes at the ATPu facility concerns a phenomenon that is probably not specifically related to this facility, but a matter concerning assessment and measurement quality in general.
    • With regard to the question of extending the service life of existing nuclear power plants, ASN asserted its desire for continuous progress in safety for extensions beyond 30 years as well as for 40 years. The 40-year stage is a new item on the safety agenda. Whatever the case, reference will be made to EPR safety objectives.
    • Generation IV reactors must provide an opportunity for significant progress in safety. They cannot be regarded as a mere chronological leap or change of reactor system.
    • ASN is an authority that takes decisions in a responsible manner. Its Commission does not arbitrate between the departments and operators for which it may be led to organise hearings under certain circumstances.
  • Nuclear safety in the world:
    • ASN's objective is to help improve nuclear safety and radiological protection worldwide. It does everything in its power to ensure that EPR safety objectives are shared across Europe. Practices differ, however, from one country to another, and this is a major obstacle. ASN cannot act as the world's policeman.
    • ASN has no detailed knowledge of the safety systems or safety design of the South Korean reactor chosen by Abu Dhabi. It can see no reason to laugh at or criticise the Korean reactor. South Korea is a responsible nuclear nation.
  • ASN budget and administration:
    • Budget programmes are currently divided into four parts. Merging these into a single programme would provide a clearer view of nuclear control costs in France and improve ASN's management.

 ASN would also like to set up a more robust “on-call” system than the existing one, which is organised on a volunteer basis.

Click on this link: http://video.assemblee-nationale.fr/wmv/opecst/opecst-20100407.wmv to listen to the entire hearing and the question and answer session with Members of Parliament and the press.

Contact: Evangelia Petit, Press Relations and Public Affairs Manager, tel. +33 (0)1 40 19 86 61 evangelia.petit@asn.fr

Date of last update : 08/06/2017