Contrôle review No. 164 - The EPR reactor
It was at the 1989 French-German summit that the Governments of the two countries decided to launch a joint development programme for a future nuclear reactor. The French and German safety authorities then went on to set ambitious safety objectives for the project and gradually to review the safety options proposed by the designers. Fifteen years on, as preparations for a public debate on the EPR are under way in France, what are the opportunities and challenges faced by ASN when it comes to controlling the design and construction of a new power reactor? Principally three, as far as I can see.
The first is improving nuclear safety and radiological protection, the basis of ASN policy. Obviously, ASN requires the EPR reactor to be even safer than reactors currently in service. But ASN has also taken advantage of the review of the safety of the EPR project to ask EDF, as part of the thirty-year safety review of its 900 MWe reactors, to introduce into these reactors any safety improvements transposable from the EPR. While the construction of an EPR reactor can make the existing EDF fleet look somehow outdated, it should also pull it up in terms of safety.
The second is taking the chance offered by the EPR project for international harmonisation on safety requirements. In addition to the definition of a joint French-German safety doctrine, the EPR is now providing opportunities for detailed exchanges between ASN and its Finnish counterpart STUK, in a climate of mutual trust.
Finally, being able to review the detailed design reports for the EPR reactor with the required level op depth and thoroughness and being in a position to examine an application for an authorisation decree, bearing in mind that the last application of this type for a power reactor was made twenty years ago, will be a major challenge for ASN and its technical support bodies.
It is my belief that this is a challenge the control bodies are now ready to meet.
Director of the French nuclear safety authority