Flamanville EPR reactor: weld repair work and operating tests may go ahead

Décision de justice
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Several organisations had asked the Conseil d’État to annul the additional time allowed for the performance of weld repair work on the EPR reactor in Flamanville and the permission to carry out early operating tests. Today, the Conseil d’État dismissed those petitions: weld conformity work is not intended to modify the reactor and the scheduled tests do not carry any risks to safety or the environment. That is why there is no need for new permissions or a new risk impact study.

In 2007, the government authorised the creation of the Flamanville 3 nuclear power plant, which would have the first European pressurised reactor (EPR) in France. Following a number of construction difficulties and delays, the government extended the period for commissioning the EPR to 2024 to allow work for making welding compliant and finishing. At the same time, the French nuclear safety authority (ASN) authorised the arrival of nuclear fuel in the area of the reactor for the performance of operating tests.

The network organisation Sortir du Nucléaire and four other organisations petitioned the Conseil d’État to annul those authorisations. Today, it dismissed those petitions.

Weld repair work does not modify the reactor as it was authorised

The Conseil d’État noted that weld repair work on the containment system of the reactor does not modify its physical reality and thus does not call into question the authorisation to create the EPR. The new environmental assessment asked for by the petitioning organisations is not, therefore, necessary.

The Conseil d’État observed that the extension of the time limit to 2024 would not prevent the future safe commissioning of the EPR. It noted that EDF had implemented a plan called “Excell”, with a specific budget of €100 million, to enable it to recruit and train highly qualified welders.

Tests that do not carry any risks to health, safety or the environment

The Conseil d’État observed, in view of the opinion that had first been submitted by the ASN, that the planned operating tests do not carry any health, safety or environmental risks, that the new fuel used for the first operating cycle has very low radioactivity and safety systems have been foreseen to avoid any risk in the event of a handling accident. Besides, these tests use very small quantities of radioactive tracers.

The Conseil d’État found that the operating tests do not require a review of the initial impact study, in which all the effects of the installation on the environment were already identified.

> Read the decisions Nos. 444845 and 448846 and No. 447330