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EDF's French nuclear emergency response force now fully operational

17 March 2014

French energy utility EDF passed a key safety milestone in early March with the opening of its fourth and final nuclear rapid action force (French acronym FARN) regional base at Bugey in the south east of France. The base will be staffed by a team of 70 EDF employees, specialised in plant operations, maintenance, radiation protection and nuclear logistics, all fully trained and prepared for crisis management operations. 

Bugey FARN emergency response team - Photo: EDF
Bugey FARN emergency response team - Photo: EDF

FARN is tasked with providing emergency personnel and equipment support at any nuclear power plant in France within 24 hours. In the event of loss of electricity and water supplies, FARN personnel will support on-site teams to restore supplies.

EDF announced the creation of this special force in the immediate aftermath of the accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi power plant in Japan, and the decision was subsequently approved by the French nuclear safety regulator, the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN).

EDF FARN resources at a glance (current figures):
 *150 employees who divide their time between FARN-related activities, training, emergency drills and their day jobs at nuclear power plants. FARN teams offer specific skills in plant operations, maintenance, logistics, safety, radiation protection, environment, etc.
 *Teams capable of mobilising within one hour, arriving at an accident site within 12 hours and being fully operational within 24 hours.
 *20 weeks of specially tailored FARN training every year, in areas such as operational crisis management, logistics and handling, equipping a rear base, etc.
*Equipment available at each regional base includes mobile pumps, generators, trucks, barges, all-terrain lifting equipment, personal protection equipment, communications equipment, etc.

EDF now has FARN regional emergency bases at Civaux (Vienne), Bugey (Ain), Paluel (Seine-Maritime) and Dampierre (Loiret), all coordinated by a national headquarters organisation and located within easy reach of all the power plants in France’s nuclear fleet, thereby ensuring very short response times.

The French utility says it is the first operator to set up a special force of this kind, reinforcing its nuclear crisis management capabilities.

The US nuclear industry is developing two regional centres - at Memphis, Tennessee, and Phoenix, Arizona - to provide emergency response equipment to any affected site in the country within 24 hours of an extreme event. They are intended to provide backup to US nuclear sites, which post-Fukushima are themselves all in the process of upgrading their emergency response resources.

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