Judith Perera

Technical problems and tightened safety rules have further delayed construction of EDF’s European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) being built at Flamanville in northern France, further pushing up costs. State owned utility EDF says the plant will not be operational before 2018 and is now expected to cost €10.5 bn, up from an initial budget of €3 bn. The project had already been delayed several years owing to problems with suppliers and new safety requirements following the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Levy told a news conference that he still had "total confidence in the Flamanville EPR", adding that it was "a priority for EDF and a major issue for the French nuclear industry and its international reputation". He said the EPR was a prototype and therefore prone to difficulties, but that the new cost estimate was realistic. However the repeated delays and cost overruns at Flamanville and at the Olkiluoto unit 3 EPR being built in Finland have damaged the French nuclear industry’s reputation. M. Levy insisted however that the Flamanville delay would have no impact on the project to build two EPRs at Hinkley Point in the UK.
Construction of the Flamanville EPR began in December 2007 with planned completion in 2012 and commercial operation in 2013. It was then rescheduled to 2017 following discovery of flaws in the steel reactor pressure vessel, forcing the manufacturer Areva to carry out additional tests. Areva expects the results of the assessment in October.
EDF said significant progress has been made on the construction site recently. 98% of the building civil structure has been completed, as has 60% of the electromechanical erection. Pre-stressing operations on the reactor building inner containment have been carried out, and the control room has been commissioned. In the first quarter of 2015, EDF submitted its commissioning application file to the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire (Nuclear Safety Authority).
The new roadmap, to which EDF and its partners are committed, aims to optimise the management of the project. The new timetable sets outs three key milestones: primary circuit mechanical erection to be finalised in the first quarter of 2016; electromechanical erection to be completed and system performance testing to begin in the first quarter of 2017; first fuel loading and start-up of the reactor in the fourth quarter of 2018.
M. Levy commented: "Our teams and those of our partners, particularly Areva, are working to complete this project together in compliance with the most stringent nuclear and industrial safety standards. All of the experience gained at Flamanville will be invaluable for other EPR projects, such as Hinkley Point."