Le Canard uncovers corners cut at construction of French reactor
Nuclear Safety: It Takes too Much Time
Le Canard enchaîné 2015/05/27
Struck by a record deficit of 5 billion euros and bogged down in the EPR construction site in Flamanville, Areva is also accumulating troubles and losses at another nuclear project, one which is little-known by the general public, the experimental Jules Horowitz Reactor. The reactor is under construction in Cadarache (Bouches-du-Rhône) on behalf of the Commissariat à l’énergie atomique (CEA). But almost nothing is going well for this technological plaything dedicated to research and the production of medical isotopes.
It was scheduled for completion in 2014, but the date has now been pushed back to 2020, which will be thirteen years after the shovels first hit the dirt. During this time, technicians recalled that the building was going up in a zone with high seismic risks, so they had to revise their plans. After a few years, the costs were mounting. The original cost estimate was 500 million euros, but it climbed to 1.5 billion, according to Les Echos (13/5). This cost overrun is to be shared by the lead contractors, Areva and DCNS [a French industrial group], the former arsenal of the State.
Sewn up with a white cable
For its part, the Autorité de sûreté nucléaire (ASN, the nuclear regulator) had to admit that the project exhibited a certain couldn’t-give-a-shit attitude which was liable to weaken the security of the site, particularly with regard to certain sub-contractors.
In a letter addressed to the CEA, dated September 30, 2014, which went unjustly ignored, the ASN was upset with the way contract E01 had been fulfilled, at a cost of 60 million euros, by the company Spie et d’Eiffage. The work concerned electrical installations in the reactor and those called “command control.” This refers to the equipment that enables control of the chain reaction, including the ability to stop the chain reaction in an emergency.
Everything should be doubled, for extra security, and the two lines should be laid down along different paths. In a document discovered by ASN inspectors, it was found that electricians for Spie et d’Eiffage had judged the stipulation about doubling the cables to be “too constraining.” They then decided unilaterally that this requirement “would not be retained.”
On this matter, Areva and DCNS did not wait to be warned by the ASN before they reacted. They declared that the liberties taken by the subcontractor were “unacceptable.”But as long as the ground doesn’t tremble too much…