French nuclear power regulator Autorite Surete Nucleaire (ASN) has cleared the restart of Unit 2 of the Fessenheim power plant in the Alsace region close the border with Germany.
The reactor was shut down in July 2016 after anomalies were discovered in the steel shell of one of the plant's three steam generators. The component was part of a wider investigation for compromised steel parts triggered by the discovery of high carbon deposits in the vessel head bottom of the EPR reactor under construction in Flamanville, France, in Normandy.
The ASN suspended the operating license of Fessenheim Unit 2 based on the discrepancy between the steel in place and the paperwork submitted to the ASN by Areva when the component was forged. The steel forging “had not been conducted in accordance with the technical dossier,” ASN said.
Tests on two similar steam generator shells that matched the one in place at Fessenheim were conducted by the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety, a division of the ASN and by independent experts, Nuclear Engineering International reported.
The shells used for testing were also manufactured at the La Creusot forge, the Areva-owned steel maker that was at the center of the investigation that EDF said at one point could have implicated 18 of its nuclear power plants.
The Fessenheim plant has been among the most talked about in France, as it is the country's oldest nuclear power plant, having begun operations in 1977. It is also close the German border, which means any serious technical issues at the plant have provoked political reactions from across the border. After years of repeated demands from Germany for France to close the plant, the French government has announced the plant would close in conjunction with the start-up of the new EPR reactor in Normandy, which is expected by the end of this year.
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