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Five French nuclear reactors with Japanese parts ordered to close down and undergo safety tests

19 October 2016

France’s Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) has ordered the country’s main power generator Électricité de France (EDF) to conduct checks at five nuclear reactors ahead of scheduled maintenance, citing potential weakness in critical forged parts manufactured by a Japanese company. The company, Japan Casting & Forging Corp. (JCFC), is also under scrutiny by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The Flamanville plant: - Image EDF
The Flamanville plant: - Image EDF

The reactors are Civaux 1 (Vienne), Fessenheim 1 (Haut-Rhin), Gravelines 4 (Nord) and Tricastin 2 and 4 (Drôme), and their closure will have a serious effect on EDF’s generating capacity as a third of the country’s nuclear capacity is already shut for maintenance or safety checks, according to Le Monde. France has 58 operational commercial nuclear reactors.

According to the Kyodo news agency, ASN said it had discovered that forged parts manufactured by JCFC contained high carbon concentrations that could lead to lower than expected mechanical strength.

After discovering flaws in the new EPR reactor being built at Flamanville 3 (Manche), ASN found the problems also potentially affected the steam generators of 18 existing EDF reactors, some with parts made by JCFC. The Flamanville reactor was made in 2014 by Creusot Forge, a subsidiary of France’s Areva SA.

Kyodo said the Japanese nuclear watchdog NRA is also looking into the matter, as the company made the reactor pressure vessels in 13 Japanese nuclear reactors including the Sendai 1 and 2 reactors operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co. in Kagoshima Prefecture. Sendai 1 is undergoing a regular checkup while the No. 2 reactor is in operation.

In the documents submitted to the NRA meeting, JCFC admitted there is a possibility that the parts used in nuclear power plants in France contain carbon higher than the regulated limits, but parts used in Japan are manufactured after removing high-carbon concentration from steel.

According to the media reports, safety tests have already been carried out at seven of a total of 12 reactors in France that used parts manufactured by JCFC. Following these findings, ASN told EDF to test the remaining five reactors within three months.

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