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EDF's delayed nuclear site suffers another set back

Flamanville

Welding issues on a Hinkley Point C-style reactor have pushed back progress at EDF’s embattled Flamanville plant in France.

French energy firm EDF admitted “quality deficiencies” in several welds at its Flamanville 3 European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) mean it will not generate power until 2020 – eight years after it was originally due to start.

EDF explained that out of 148 welds inspected at the Normandy plant, 33 must be repaired and a further 30 will need to be altered or monitored as they do not meet quality criteria. Fixing the welding problems will add £400M to the cost of Flamanville, which has now topped £9.7bn.

The 1,650MW reactor was initially costed at £2.9bn. EPR reactors are supposed to be the latest in nuclear reactor design, producing more power while performing better on safety and environmental protection.

The EPR is the same design as two reactors planned to be used at Hinkley Point C, also being built by EDF and currently set to cost more than £19bn.

Despite the delays and construction defects at Flamanville EDF stressed problems with the EPR will not affect Hinkley Point C.

A spokesperson for EDF said: “The construction of Hinkley Point C remains on track. The project has already benefitted, and will continue to learn from, the experience of other projects.”

It is not the first time the EPR in Northern France has encountered problems.

Construction on the Flamanville 3 reactor began in 2007 and was due to open in 2012. But construction problems and design issues pushed the opening date back from 2016, to 2018 and now to 2020.

The Chinese Taishan nuclear power station is the only place in the world where an EPR has successfully connected to the grid.

When the EPR at Flamanville finally starts generating power it will have a capacity of 1,650MW, enough to supply power to 1.5M people. 

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