On March 3, 2021, Electricité de France, EDF, the sole operator of nuclear power plants in France, informed the country’s nuclear safety body, Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), of a design anomaly on three nozzles of the main primary system of the European Pressurised Reactor that it has been building at Flamanville in north-west France.
The design flaw is serious as the main primary system contains water used to cool the reactor core and transfer energy from the nuclear reaction to the steam generators. The design dates back to 2006 and the nozzles were manufactured in 2011.
This is the latest in a very long series of flaws and problems that EDF has struggled with ever since it embarked upon the project to build EPRs at the beginning of the millennium. The Flamanville project was commissioned in 2007 and was supposed to be operational by 2013 at a cost of EUR 3.3 billion.
However, after several hiccups of all kinds, the project is now tentatively scheduled for completion in 2023 at a cost of EUR 12.4 bn. A full 10 years late and at four times the initial cost.
The story is no different at two other EPR construction sites. Finland had ordered the reactor in early 2000s and construction began in 2005. Yet, 16 years and several delays, as well as cost jumping more than three times over the initial budget of EUR 3.2 billion, the latest deadline for completion of the project, is now next year.
The two EPRs that finally have seen the light of the day are both in China at Taishan Nuclear Power Station that began after a delay of over 6 years and at undisclosed cost overruns.