Corrosion of nuclear reactors: France avoids a “disaster” scenario for the winter

published on Wednesday, July 27, 2022 at 18:00

The Nuclear Safety Agency (ASN) has validated EDF’s control strategy for the corrosion problems encountered by certain reactors in its French fleet. These corrosion problems have been particularly noted on welds in nuclear power plants.

France has escaped a dark scenario for its electricity supply, looking forward to next winter. The nuclear police officer confirmed on Wednesday July 27th EDF’s strategy to face the corrosion problems of some reactors. EDF plans to ultrasonically scan all of its reactors by 2025 to look for traces of this problem, which has led to the shutdown of 12 out of 56 reactors.

The group must priority control of the most sensitive areas of the 1,450 MW reactors and some of 1,300 MW. The Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) “considers EDF’s strategy appropriate in light of the knowledge gained about the phenomenon and the safety issues involved,” according to a press release, without claiming an overall more streamlined control plan.

“Regarding reactor 2 of the Belleville nuclear power plant, however, ASN considers that the inspection of this reactor scheduled for 2024 is too late,” she specifies. ASN believes that the Knowledge of the phenomenon is ‘still developing’ and that “the control program must be adjusted if the controls or analysis uncover new elements”.

sweat problems

These corrosion problems were recognized and presumed to be on the weld seams of the arches of the safety injection tubes (RIS) – which enable the reactor to be cooled in the event of an accident – connected to the primary circuit. This so-called “stress corrosion” leads to small cracks.

The Shutdown Reactor Cooling Circuit (BRP) of certain reactors is also checked. This corrosion issue is weighing on EDF’s nuclear power generation outlook and financial results this year, which the government has 100% renationalized. It has also raised concerns about powering France next winter. Thirty of 56 reactors are currently shut down, including 12 for corrosion and 18 for scheduled maintenance.

From this point of view, ASN’s decision on Wednesday does not worsen the situation, because the nuclear police officer does not demand faster checks, synonymous with reactor failures, but essentially confirms EDF’s schedule. In May, the electricity producer considered that it was “not necessary to expect new reactor shutdowns”.

Electricity prices are rising

“The scenario we escaped is the one where the ASN adds an additional constraint that reduces nuclear availability for the coming winter“, explains Julien Teddé, managing director of the broker Opéra Energie. “A negative opinion from the ASN could have been bad news,” even “a disaster,” he notes.

“I find it quite reassuring that ASN is making this decision,” Sébastien Menesplier of CGT Mines Energy told AFP. “Given today’s energy situation and the production fleet, All the better that the ASN validates this, otherwise we would have ended up in one hell of a mess‘ he stressed.

Concerns about supplies this winter add to other factors, beginning with rising gas prices, fueled by fears of shortages related to the invasion of Ukraine, which is driving electricity prices to new heights. Prices have almost doubled in a matter of weeks: electricity for delivery in 2023 in France was trading at around 500 euros per megawatt hour (MWh) on Wednesday, up from less than 300 euros in mid-June.

Anticipation of “serious bottlenecks”

These futures prices no longer obey their usual economic logic, but likely reflect “expectations of severe shortages” and “a high risk premium on the French electricity market“, according to the sector regulator. The fears are not limited to the nuclear fleet. “The real issue for me is the interconnectors”, while France is dependent on its neighbors for part of the winter, judges Julien Teddé.

If there is a gasoline rationing next winterwith additional questions about solidarity between states, it doesn’t seem entirely won to me that the Germans agree to burn gas to generate electricity and send it to France,” he warns.

Kaddouri Ismail

I am Ismail from Morocco, I work as a blogger and online marketer. I am also the founder of the “Mofid” site, in which I constantly publish many important articles in the field of technology, taking advantage of more than 5 years of experience working in the field. I focus on publishing in a group of areas, the most important of which are programming, e-marketing, digital currencies and freelance work.

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