In China, Concern Over High Carbon Steel In Vessel Components

The French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) said that the tests used to detect high-carbon flaws in the reactor vessel head and reactor vessel bottom of the Flamanville 3 nuclear reactor project in Normandy, France, were not performed on components shipped and installed at the two-reactor build in Taishan, Guangdong, China.

Areva told the South China Morning Post that the components shipped to China were in compliance with Chinese regulations. However, it is now unclear if they comply with French regulations, which were revised in 2005. ASN said China's National Nuclear Safety Administration was told about the problems detected at the Flamanville 3 project last Friday. The tests that revealed the high carbon anomaly were performed in October 2014.

Steel with higher carbon levels are weaker and have a lower melting temperature than low-carbon steel.

The Taishan 1 European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) was expected to go online in June of this year. The second EPR on the site was to be completed in September 2016. A third unit is also planned.

The $8.3 billion Taishan project is 70 percent owned by China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group. French utility Electricite de France (EDF) owns 30 percent of the project.

ASN said it was up to the manufacturer to perform “non-destructive tests on their products to guarantee their compliance … [however], the problem can only be detected by destructive tests.”

Destructive tests “cannot be performed on delivered equipment,” ASN said, noting that “Areva performed extensive non-destructive tests on all reactor vessel equipment, including on those shipped to China,” the agency said.

Areva, however, has plans to perform "comprehensive tests on equipment made with the same manufacturing process to fully characterize the problem, assess its impact on the safety of the reactors, and, if need be, provide additional justifications and/or propose compensatory measures," the French regulator said.

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