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Areva suspends US EPR plans

17 March 2015

French nuclear reactor manufacturer Areva has asked the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to suspend work on the design certification of the US version of its EPR reactor until further notice. This has caused Areva subsidiary Unistar Nuclear Energy to request the suspension of the review of its construction and operation licence (COL) application for the Calvert Cliffs 3 plant in Maryland.

Artist's impression of the proposed EPR plant at Hinkley Point C in the UK
Artist's impression of the proposed EPR plant at Hinkley Point C in the UK

According to World Nuclear News (WNN), this suspension is one outcome of the comprehensive review underpinning the company's global transformation plan. The request to the NRC was made days before French parent company Areva announced record losses for 2014 of €4.83 billion ($5.38 billion). The company is to embark on a three-year financing plan to achieve savings of around €1 billion ($1.1 billion).

Areva says this does not signal a withdrawal of its commitment to build new nuclear plants in the USA, but that the current state of the energy market in that country makes this the best decision until such time as finance is available to resume the certification process.

Areva CEO Philippe Knoche has said that the company planned to concentrate on China, which has a number of French-designed pressurised water reactors (PWRs), and hosts the first two EPR units under construction at Taishan in China. However, WNN points out that apart from those units, China's extensive nuclear construction plans going forward do not at present feature the EPR.

The US EPR is based on the EPR PWRs currently under construction in at Flamanville in France and Olkiluoto in Finland and planned for construction at Hinkley Point C in the UK. The reactor had been earmarked for construction at several US sites, but all COL applications referencing it have now been withdrawn or are suspended.

Unistar withdrew an application for a planned US EPR at Nine Mile Point in New York in 2013, while AmerenUE suspended an application for Callaway 2 in Missouri in 2009 citing financing problems. PPL's COL application for Bell Bend in Pennsylvania was suspended in 2014.

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