The nuclear safety and radiation protection situation is of major concern. ASN is remaining vigilant
On 20 January, through its Chairman, Mr Pierre-Franck Chevet, ASN presented its New Year’s wishes to the press, in its Montrouge headquarters.
Mr Pierre-Franck Chevet reviewed the current challenges faced by ASN and the strategic priorities for nuclear safety and radiation protection in 2016.
He underlined that “the nuclear safety and radiation protection situation is of major concern”.
This view is based on three observations:
"Nuclear safety and radiation protection are facing unprecedented challenges”:
- “The continued operation of the nuclear power plants beyond 40 years cannot be taken for granted.The operating conditions for the nuclear power plants beyond 40 years is still a subject of some considerable debate”, P. - F. Chevet pointed out. This implies that beyond the fourth periodic safety review, it will be possible to guarantee that the equipment important for safety remain compliant with its initial requirements, that its ageing is controlled and that its safety is reinforced in line with the requirements applicable to new installations. ASN underlines that its first opinions concerning the scope of the studies required on the NPP fleet will be issued in early 2016 and that the generic positions statement regarding the proposed improvements will in principle be issued in 2018. ASN will then issue a position statement reactor by reactor, as of 2020.
- “Between now and 2017, ASN will be receiving the periodic safety review reports of fifty or so fuel cycle facilities or research facilities, most of which are older installations”. There are major safety issues involved in the continued operation of the old CEA and Areva nuclear facilities. ASN has already stipulated the shutdown of installations which were unable to comply with the most recent safety requirements. For most of these installations, these reports will constitute the first safety review since they were created and will be an opportunity to make significant safety improvements.
- “The deployment of post-Fukushima measures must continue”. Between 2014 and 2016, ASN determined additional requirements for deployment of a hardened safety core on the EDF NPP sites, as well as on the fuel cycle and research facility sites where the potential consequences are the most significant. These resolutions specify additional requirements in order to reinforce prevention and mitigate the consequences of a severe accident, for example affecting the reactor core or spent fuel storage pools. They also entail reinforced measures for emergency management by the licensee. ASN has initiated a detailed analysis of the measures proposed by AREVA, CEA and EDF in response to its resolutions, more specifically those concerning the hardened safety core. The Advisory Committee for nuclear reactors will be meeting in 2016 to review these various measures.
“Difficulties in the construction of new nuclear installations” (EPR, RJH, Iter).
With regard to EPR, oversight of the construction site is continuing and the vessel carbon content anomaly is currently the subject of a comprehensive investigation. Despite the delays in the construction of RJH and ITER, ASN considers that safety on these construction sites is satisfactory.
With regard to Areva’s Creusot Forge site, ASN will be assessing its organisation for the period 2005 – 2015 by an examination of the products manufactured over this period, with the aim of understanding the processes which led to the anomalies on the Flamanville 3 vessel domes and will assess the extent to which lessons have been learned from past generic anomalies.
“The industry is in a difficult economic and financial situation”.
At a time of reorganisation, ASN will be attentive to ensuring that firms regain the financial capacity required to meet their overall responsibilities and that they maintain essential skills and safety investments.
“It is in this demanding context that ASN asked for a significant increase in its resources”
Thought must be given to the financing of oversight in order to ensure that ASN and IRSN are given long-term human and financial resources commensurate with the new challenges.
P. - F. Chevet underlined that ASN will give immediate priority to the oversight of operating installations , with the examination of new installations being temporarily put to one side until such time as a solution is found.
- “Decommissioning and the Cigéo disposal facility project are complex issues”. The nuclear licensees will be required to devote considerable resources to them in order to carry out decommissioning of their installations in good time and in complete safety. The storage capacities shall be designed-in margins (in terms of volume and possible storage time) in order to deal with disposal project contingencies.
- “The challenges faced by the small-scale nuclear activities remain significant, more particularly in the medical field”. ASN’s radiotherapy inspections in 2015 show the need to reinforce the internal organisation of certain centres, to improve patient pathway. With regard to interventional radiology, ASN is remaining vigilant concerning the reinforcement of the steps taken for dose optimisation, in particular by increasing the presence of medical physicists and improving the understanding of the equipment and its functions.
- P.-F. Chevet expressed his satisfaction concerning the changes to the nuclear safety and radiation protection legislative framework. The green growth energy transition Act has already brought about significant progress in terms of transparency and oversight of nuclear installations. This Act also makes provision for an ordinance which will be issued shortly. This ordinance “consolidates the duties, powers and responsibilities of ASN” and reinforces its powers of inspection and sanction. ASN will more specifically be able to apply a graduated system of sanctions.
- P.-F. Chevet is in particular pleased that this same text reinforces the oversight of the security of radioactive sources, a subject which had hitherto been an “orphan”. Those in possession of high-level sealed radioactive sources will thus be required to take all steps to protect these sources against malicious acts. ASN and other administrative authorities will monitor compliance with these provisions.
- “ASN aims to develop the nuclear risk culture by encouraging the involvement by the general public in subjects relating to nuclear safety and radiation protection”. In 2016, the information and iodine tablets distribution campaign intended for the populations living around the nuclear power plants will take place. The purpose of the campaign, being coordinated by ASN, is to inform the general public of the nuclear risk and the range of appropriate protective measures, more particularly by taking iodine tablets.
ASN applies a policy of “accountability”, more specifically by submitting its Report on the State of Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection in France to Parliament each year. It will be presenting its report on“The state of nuclear safety and radiation protection in France in 2015”at a hearing open to the press, organised on 17 May 2016 by the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Options (OPECST).
Evangelia Petit, head of press department, tel.: 01 46 16 41 42, email@example.com