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ASN Report on the state of nuclear safety and radiation protection in France in 2016

Published on 12/07/2017

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ASN Report on the state of nuclear safety and radiation protection in France in 2016

                

The ASN (Nuclear Safety Authority) Report on the state of nuclear safety and radiation protection in France in 2016.

This report is specified in Article L. 592-31 of the Environment Code.

It was submitted to the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and the Presidents of the Senate and the National Assembly, pursuant to the above-mentioned Article.

    

   

On the whole, 2016 was satisfactory despite a worrying context

The year was marked by the detection of a serious generic anomaly. Eighteen EDF reactors were potentially affected by excess carbon in the steel used in the manufacture of the steam generators. Specific checks were ordered by ASN on all these reactors and five of them had to be shut down early.

This is not the first time this type of generic anomaly has been found: for the French electrical system, it confirms the need to ensure that there is sufficient margin to deal with the shutdown of several reactors following the detection of a generic anomaly.

In addition, irregularities dating back to the manufacture of large reactor components have been detected in the Creusot Forge plant. Numerous design and manufacture conformity deviations were also found during the periodic safety reviews on the installations.

From left to right : Margot TIRMARCHE - Commissioner, Pierre-Franck CHEVET - Chairman, Lydie ÉVRARD - Commissioner, Sylvie CADET-MERCIER - Commissioner, Philippe CHAUMET-RIFFAUD - Commissioner.

From left to right : Margot TIRMARCHE - Commissioner, Pierre-Franck CHEVET - Chairman, Lydie ÉVRARD - Commissioner, Sylvie CADET-MERCIER - Commissioner, Philippe CHAUMET-RIFFAUD - Commissioner.

These findings mean that:

  • In the future, for new constructions and modifications made to existing facilities, improvements are necessary in design, manufacturing and installation, as well as in the corresponding inspections. This is now a priority in the light of the major work that would be necessary to extend the operating service life of the older facilities.
  • With regard to past activities, the historical manufacturing review initiated by Areva must be completed and the conformity deviations remedied during the periodic safety reviews.

This complex situation must give rise neither to denial, nor to defeatism: denial of the scale and even sometimes the reality of the problems observed; defeatism which would discourage the completion of the necessary manufacturing reviews, or undermine the motivation of those involved in safety on a day to day basis.

This situation demands that both the consequences and causes of anomalies and irregularities be identified and dealt with: this is the absolute pre-requisite for consolidating nuclear safety.

Apart from these anomalies or irregularities, the operating safety of Basic Nuclear Installations (BNI) was on the whole maintained at a high level, although particular vigilance is still required in the field of radiation protection, particularly for the medical sector, in which four level 2 incidents occurred in 2016.

 
This assessment of 2016, with its positive and negative points, comes at a worrying time:

  • Safety and radiation protection challenges will grow over the period 2017-2020:
    • The evaluation of the continued operation of the 900 MWe reactors beyond their fourth safety review is a key issue. ASN will issue a generic opinion in 2019 on this subject after analysis of the studies yet to be produced by EDF.
    • The other main nuclear installations, in particular fuel cycle installations and research reactors, will undergo a periodic safety review during the same period. By the end of 2017, ASN will have received about fifty review files for analysis.
    • Deployment of the post-Fukushima improvements will need to be continued, more particularly with regard to the fixed equipment of the “hardened safety core” supplementing the mobile means already in place.
    • The projects or construction sites for new installations, EPR, Cigéo, Réacteur Jules Horowitz (RJH), ITER are behind schedule. Safety is not generally a factor, except for the Flamanville EPR vessel anomaly, which is being given special treatment.
  • The main industrial firms, Areva, CEA, EDF, who hold prime responsibility for the safety of their installations, are experiencing economic or financial difficulties.
    Wide-reaching reorganisations are in progress. Time will be needed for them to take full effect.
  • For 2017, ASN and the Institute for Radiation protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) obtained additional staff, although the personnel levels are still inadequate for dealing with these issues comprehensively. A situation such as this is not however sustainable and ASN is once again asking for a review of the financing of safety regulation, to enable it to have appropriate resources tailored to its needs and those of IRSN.

This worrying context must encourage all stakeholders to exercise the greatest vigilance to ensure that safety remains a priority. For its part, ASN will be attentive to the technical and financial capacity of the industrial firms, as well as to ensuring that they maintain in-house skills that are vital for safety. It will in particular ensure that the necessary safety investments are actually made.

Date of last update : 12/07/2017