The following story originally appeared in NEI’s Nuclear Energy Overview.
New requirements for post-Fukushima safety enhancements at French nuclear power plants will involve “considerable work and large-scale investments,” a report from the country’s nuclear regulator says.
The regulator, ASN, said that earlier safety inspections of French nuclear energy facilities in response to the Fukushima accident found them to be safe but said that further improvements are needed.
“ASN considers that those examined show a level of safety that is sufficient to warrant no immediate closure of any of them. At the same time, ASN considers that their continued operation demands that their robustness to extreme situations be increased beyond their existing safety margins, as rapidly as possible.”
ASN is requiring French nuclear power plants to adopt a range of measures to cope with:
- natural phenomena on “an exceptional scale” exceeding those used in the design of the reactors and in periodic safety reviews
- an accident occurring during a prolonged loss of electrical power or cooling in which “all the facilities” at a site are affected.
A key component of these changes is the adoption of what the French regulator calls a “hard core” emergency management center at each facility, to include an extremely robust diesel electricity generator and backup water supply. The center would be designed to withstand extreme natural events like earthquakes and floods.
The ASN report singled out other improvements including:
- the deployment of a nationwide “Nuclear Rapid Intervention Force” composed of specialized teams and equipment that would be able to take over from on-site personnel in an accident
- “reinforced measures” for used fuel pools, designed to reduce the risk of uncovering the nuclear fuel.
The ASN report, which will be presented at an August meeting of the Convention on Nuclear Safety at the IAEA in Vienna, says that work has already begun on some of these measures and will continue over the next several years. ASN said it will submit semi-annual reports on progress in implementing the changes.