Electricite de France SA plans to reinforce the concrete base of its Fessenheim atomic reactors by the middle of next year so it can avoid being forced to close the generator early, according to the industry regulator.
The base has to be made thicker or the reactors will be halted, said Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of Autorite de Surete Nucleaire. “EDF apparently wants to carry out the work.”
The watchdog is considering plans submitted by the utility, Lacoste told reporters today. The work at the nation’s oldest reactors will improve containment if there’s a core meltdown.
The Fessenheim plant, in eastern France on the banks of the Rhine River, was the focus of a debate during presidential elections about France’s reliance on nuclear power. President Francois Hollande pledged to shut the site, which has two 900- megawatt reactors that began operating in 1977, at the end of his five-year mandate in 2017 for safety reasons.
The reinforcement work at the generators “is far from being a simple operation but we think it’s feasible,” said Thomas Houdre, director of reactors at the watchdog. It will “very likely” have to be carried out at both units.
The regulator gave EDF permission to operate Unit 1 at Fessenheim for another decade on July 4 as long as the base was made thicker by mid-2013, according to documents on its website. The watchdog had already asked in 2009 for this to be studied as the base is thinner than other generators in France.
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