Leaked documents show French nuclear power station design flawed

I am attending the launch workshop of a year-long, part-time Climate leadership course organised by Wits and InWent in Munich this week. I am delighted at the prospect of engaging in formal study again and grateful for the InWent scholarship that makes it possible. 15 emerging climate leaders from South Africa and Indonesia respectively have been selected to participate in a leadership capacity building programme that will be hosted by Wits University in South Africa and by the Centre for Climate risk and Opportunity management (CCROM) in Indonesia.

I travelled to Munich via Paris and on arrival in Paris was greeted by most alarming newspaper headlines – leaked Electricite de France (EDF) memos posted on the French anti-nuclear group Sortir du Nucleaire´s website suggest that design flaws in the nuclear power station under construction at Flamanville (on the Normandy coast) could cause a catastrophic accident. Engineers at EDF said in the internal memos that welding on the European Pressurised reactor (EPR) “does not meet norms and could result in a large scale outpouring of radioactivity.”

French environmentalists fear that this could lead to what would amount to an irreversible meltdown similar to that of Chernobyl in 1986. Even worse, according to the memos, not only the new EPR but also many of the other 57 reactors already operating in France could be affected by similar flaws. An EDF spokesperson admitted that the memos had come from the EDF and a senior nuclear engineer from Areva (not named in the article I read) commented that EPR is a new design being built to scale for the first time and it is “not suprising that there are problems with the design.

Originally the Nuclear power station at Flamanville was meant to start producing power by 2012 but the start date has been delayed until 2014 and its cost has been re-estimated at 5 billion Euro instead of the initial 3.3 billion Euro budget. President Sarkozy, Ariva and EDF (which now owns British Energy) have already sold EPR packages to customers worldwide including China, the Middle East and Britian.

Brenda Martin

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