Macron’s nuclear error


Progressives in France may be breathing a sigh of relief that at least the winner in last Sunday’s presidential election runoff was not the far right candidate, Marine Le Pen. But another term of Emmanuel Macron is a bitter consolation prize for the country’s — and Europe’s — anti-nuclear movement. 

Although not as unhinged as Le Pen’s “only nuclear” energy policy, Macron promises at least six new reactors, rather than a nuclear phaseout. Worse still, these will be the new and likely not improved EPR2, the successor to the disastrous EPR, known as the Evolutionary Power Reactor.

Apparently oblivious — or preferring to forget — the financial and industrial embarrassment that is the first version of the EPR, version 2 will be even bigger at 1,750 megawatts. And therefore more dangerous and expensive.

The lamentable state of play of the EPR so far is as follows:

Flamanville 3:  Normandy, France reactor is almost 12 years behind schedule with the latest new start date of 2023. A $3.7 billion budget that is now at $21.5 billion. Almost seven times more expensive than planned. Had to repair penetration welds on the main secondary circuit. Fabrication defects detected at the end of 2014 in the upper and lower pressure vessel heads. Ordered removed several years into operation (safety experts say the reactor should not start at all without a replacement.)

Olkiluoto 3: Budget for the two reactors in Finland has more than tripled, reaching close to $11 billion. Continuous delays, technical failures and lawsuits.

Taishan 1: Vibration in Taishan 1, China’s EPR, resulted in damage to cladding around fuel rods which caused them to leak radioactivity inside the reactor vessel, forcing it temporarily offline. Flaw is likely present in Taishan 2 and other EPRs.

Pie-in-the-sky: Macron’s nuclear dreams won’t be realized during his tenure. EPR2 will not be online before 2039 at best, as it is only at the stage of “basic design”, and needs at least another 19 million engineering hours to get to the next design stage.  More

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