EDF has announced that construction of the nuclear block of the country’s first third-generation nuclear power plant at Flamanville has started on schedule, marking a major step forward in the country’s nuclear programme.

The start of building construction at the site in Normandy was marked by the continuous pouring of 10 000 t of concrete to form the first part of the slab for the floor of the reactor building.

Flamanville will have a capacity of 1650 MW and will be commissioned in 2012. It will use European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) technology developed by Areva NP and the start of construction is a decisive stage in the replacement of EDF’s existing fleet of nuclear power plants.

“The start of construction of the nuclear block is a major step in the construction of the EPR at Flamanville,” said Pierre Gadonniex, Chairman and CEO of EDF. “The success of the Flamanville site is essential and will benefit the whole French nuclear industry, since this technology is currently recognised as an innovative, safe and competitive solution throughout the world.”

The third-generation EPR technology is a continuation of current pressurized water reactor technology incorporating advances in flexibility and safety. Flamanville and Olkiluoto, Finland will be the first sites in the world to commission EPR technology.

Some 700 people are now working at the Flamanville site as construction enters a definitive phase, says EDF. The workforce is expected to rise to some 2000, bringing together companies such as Areva, Alstom and Bouygues.

Areva recently signed a contract to develop two EPR reactors in China and is also aiming to license the technology in the UK and USA.