The Flamanville EPR is further behind schedule

The Electricité de France group (EDF) must once again “Adjust the schedule”. To put it bluntly, the construction of the third-generation EPR nuclear reactor in Flamanville (Manche) will experience further delay and additional costs. Prior to any operating test, the fuel loading date in the vessel of the future reactor is “postponed from the end of 2022 to the second quarter of 2023”, announced the group in a press release, Wednesday January 12 in the morning.

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“In an industrial context made more difficult by the pandemic” of Covid-19, this bad news further increases the cost of construction, which goes from 12.4 billion to 12.7 billion euros, announces the company. In July 2020, the Court of Auditors even considered that the total cost of the site would amount to more than 19 billion euros, taking into account other expenses intervening before any industrial commissioning, in particular those related to parts. alternative or administrative or fiscal procedures. The advisers of the Court of Auditors were already evoking a “An operational failure, cost drifts and considerable delays”.

Site started in 2007

The announcement of a new delay further complicates the situation of EDF, of which the State is still the majority shareholder. At the end of the Council of Ministers, government spokesperson Gabriel Attal indicated that he will ensure that EDF “Learn from the various delays” accumulated on the site, with the objective of“Improve the industrial process”.

Heavily indebted, the group began work on the EPR (for European Pressurized Reactor – “European pressurized reactor”, in French) in 2007, and initially aimed for commissioning… for 2012, with much lower construction cost estimates (around 3 billion euros).

In 2019, at the request of the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, the Chairman and CEO of EDF, Jean-Bernard Lévy, commissioned a report on the setbacks accumulated for several years. This Folz report (named after the former CEO of the automotive group PSA) attributed the years of delay in part to “A generalized loss of skills”. In fact, the Flamanville site was preceded by a long period without any plans for new reactors.

On the other hand, the first two EPRs to have entered into operation in the world, in 2018 and 2019, are in China, in Taishan. An incident led to the arrest, in July 2021, of one of them. In question, “A phenomenon of mechanical wear of certain assembly components”, according to EDF, which ensures that this file “Does not call into question the EPR model”.

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The 56 reactors of the current French nuclear fleet, the main source of electricity in the country, belong to the category of pressurized water reactors known as second generation. The Flamanville power station has two, commissioned in the mid-1980s. The most recent being those in Civaux (Vienne), which began operating at the end of the 1990s.

Nuclear power, a divisive presidential debate

On November 9, 2021, despite the problems observed on the Flamanville-3 site, Emmanuel Macron announced his intention to “Relaunch the construction of nuclear reactors in our country”. A pledge of“Energy independence of France”, according to the President of the Republic.

While nuclear is one of the polarizing themes of the presidential campaign, Greenpeace denounced a “Umpteenth delay which disqualifies announcements of new reactors”. The non-governmental organization asks “A moratorium on the work of the Flamanville EPR, in order to conduct an independent assessment of the viability of EPR nuclear reactors”.

The government will ensure that EDF “Learn from the various delays” accumulated on this site, underlined the spokesman of the government, Gabriel Attal, Wednesday. The government will show itself “Vigilant”, with the objective of“Improve the industrial process”, he explained after the Council of Ministers.

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