On 18th 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 gave an overview of the issues facing ASN and the strategic priorities for nuclear safety and radiation protection in 2017.
He pointed out that "a year ago,the situation with regard to nuclear installations was worrying in the medium term. If I had to summarize my thoughts today, I would say that the situation is worrying. I omit "in the medium term".
This judgement is based on several findings:
- "Firstly, we have entered into a period of unprecedented challenges in terms of safety":
- "These include extending the operating life of the nuclear reactors, which are approaching 40 years of age, and improving their safety". In April 2016, ASN formalised its expectations regarding the content of the studies and checks to be implemented in the 4th periodic safety review of the 900 MWe reactors. The studies on all these subjects are currently under way. In view of their progress, ASN indicates that the generic position concerning the 900 MWe reactors is expected to be known in the course of 2019.
- For the fuel cycle and research facilities, the majority of which are also old, "ASN hasalready received 20 to 25 periodic safety review files. Some thirty new files are expected in 2017". For most of these facilities, this will be their first periodic safety review since they started operating. It must provide the opportunity to significantly improve their safety.
- "The Fukushima follow-ups: a first step was accomplished at the end of 2015 with the installation of flexible and mobile means on all facilities to cope with exceptional accidents". In 2016 ASN inspected the first work sites for the installation of fixed "hardened safety core" equipment, and notably the construction of several ultimate backup diesel generator sets. These operations will extend over 5 to 10 years.
- "All the major installation construction sites are experiencing difficulties or are behind schedule (RJH, ITER, EPR, etc.). This is probably the result of a loss of hands-on practice and experience in the area. With the exception of the EPR reactor vessel, the problems we are finding are essentially of an industrial nature and do not involve safety issues". ASN will give its position regarding the reactor vessel anomaly towards mid-2017. At the end of 2016, AREVA submitted the majority of the files concerning the serviceability of the EPR reactor vessel to ASN.
"This overall context is worrying, even more so than at the beginning of 2016".
- With regard to the Cigéo disposal facility, P.-F. Chevet stressed that "the act of 2016 stipulates the notion of reversibility, a strong demand expressed by fellow citizens in the numerous public debates. It stipulates that reversibility firstly introduces the question of adaptability; the repository must be adaptable to changes in energy strategy. Moreover, reversibility implies being able to recover the waste once it has been placed in the repository. This act, which is of major importance, opens the way for ANDRA to submit a creation authorisation file in 2018".
"With regard to the waste from the decommissioning of a nuclear installation, including very low activity waste, it is taken to centralised disposal facilities managed by ANDRA. Waste presenting a very low level of risk ends up, on average, being transported half way across France. This is not necessarily the best solution given the transport and environmental issues. This question would deserve public debate".
"Decommissioning operations are relatively rare at present. However, the facilities will be shut down one day, at which point this issue will have to be addressed on a massive scale".
- "The risks in small-scale nuclear activities remain high". ASN observes that in radiotherapy, the risk management procedures (risk analyses and feedback from significant radiation protection events) are still not turned to sufficiently good account to further enhance treatment safety. ASN is particularly concerned by the fact that the increase in radiotherapy activity, the technical changes and the human and organisational factors are not fully analysed. With regard to fluoroscopy-guided interventional practices in operating theatres, ASN remains attentive to the reinforcing of the means deployed to optimise doses, particularly by increasing the presence of medical physicists and persons competent in radiation protection, and the training of medical staff in radiation protection and utilisation of the equipment.
As far as the security of radioactive sources is concerned, Mr Chevet pointed out that "ASN is preparing the operational implementation of full oversight in this domain. We should be ready and operational by the end of 2017, beginning of 2018".
Date of last update : 08/06/2017