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EDF given notice to protect French nuclear plant from risk of external explosion

12 June 2020

France's nuclear safety authority (ASN) served a formal notice to EDF on June 4 relating to the Gravelines nuclear power plant. ASN has told EDF that work is required on five of Gravelines’ six reactors so that they are protected against the risk of an external explosion at the nearby Dunkirk LNG terminal.

Gravelines Nuclear Power Station – Image: Raimond Spekking / Wikimedia
Gravelines Nuclear Power Station – Image: Raimond Spekking / Wikimedia

The nuclear authority fears that an explosion at the Dunkirk LNG terminal, located just over 3 miles (5km) away, could cause a loss of cooling and lead to a meltdown. EDF said that work has already been completed on rector 5 at the 5.4GW nuclear plant. Work on the other reactors must be completed by the end of October. 
The formal notice orders EDF to comply with regulations relating to protection against the risk of external explosion to reactors 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 at the Gravelines nuclear power plant, located on the northeastern coast of France. ASN said that in February 2020, EDF detected a deviation affecting the motors of the filter drums within the cooling systems of the six reactors. In the event of an explosion near the nuclear power plant, the deviation could lead to the loss of cooling. 
The main concern for ASN derives from the proximity of the Dunkirk LNG terminal and the risk of an explosion there or on an LNG tanker off the coast. The nuclear authority first raised concerns about an external explosion in 2015 because of Gravelines being located in an industrial zone. 
EDF replied to the notice by saying that in the unlikely event that an explosion was to occur at the LNG terminal, its Nuclear Rapid Action Force (FARN) would be able to restore the supply of cold sea water to Gravelines’ reactors within 24 hours. However, ASN said EDF was unable to demonstrate FARN’s ability to do so. FARN was established by EDF following the Fukushima disaster in 2011 and consists of experts and engineers who are able to respond to incidents at EDF’s nuclear plants on short notice.
EDF has already made amends to reactor 5 at Gravelines and is working on the remaining reactors. Failing to meet the October deadline will result in legal proceedings. ASN will continue to monitor the nuclear plant until the works are completed.

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