Nuclear, Reactors

UK, France, Finland question Areva’s EPR reactor design

3 November 2009 – Nuclear safety authorities in three countries have raised questions over the design of control and command systems in Areva’s Generation III+ EPR reactor.

The Financial Times reports that authorities in France, Finland and the UK have asked for changes to ensure greater independence of the reactor’s safety systems from control operations.

“The EPR design, as originally proposed by the licensees and the manufacturer, Areva, doesn’t comply with the independence principle, as there is a very high degree of complex interconnectivity between the control and safety systems,” they said in a statement.

Areva said that it was in talks with safety authorities about improvements to the design, but insisted that the request in no way implied the systems themselves were not safe. Both Areva and EDF, the French nuclear operator that is building its first EPR in northern France, said they would deliver suggested improvements by the end of the year.

The request comes as the world’s first EPR, being built in Finland, continues to suffer severe delays amid wrangling between Areva and its client TVO. The project has also been hit by questions from the Finnish safety authority over construction procedures. French safety authorities have also halted work on the construction of the EPR at Flamanville due to safety procedure concerns.

Areva also welcomed the joint statement from safety authorities as a positive step towards developing common international standards on reactor design, though it would still have to come up with slightly different solutions for each regulator it said.