Utility giant EDF told French nuclear power regulator ASN on Wednesday that repairs on pumping station pipes in 20 different reactors were in need of repairs, as “thinning of the metal in certain sections” had put the cooling systems in the plants at risk. The immediate concern was the pipes' ability to withstand pressures associated with sudden seismic activity – in a word: earthquakes.
The news caused a rippled response as concern escalated to considerations over whether the shut down of 20 reactors would cause a power supply in the upcoming winter, according to Reuters news.
EDF told the national regulator ASN that the problem was a “level 2” problem, using a scale in which one is the lowest risk and seven is the highest. No threat to the public or plant personnel is anticipated, EDF said.
EDF told ASN, “In-depth investigations have revealed thinning of the metal in certain sections of piping, thus making it impossible to guarantee their seismic resistance in the event of a design-base-type earthquake.”
The company noted that failures of these pipes could lead to flooding n the pump houses of the reactors, which could mean failure of the cooling water systems.
EDF said that repairs were already substantially underway. At the Belleville plant Units 1 and 2, Cattenom Units 3 and 4, Dampierre Units 1 and 2, Golfech Units 1 and 2 and Saint Laurent-des-Eaux B Unit 1 piping systems had already been “reinfoced,” Reuters said.
Work is currently underway at Chinon B Unit 3, Cruas Unit 1, Dampierre Unit 3, Nogent Unit 1 and Saint-Laurent-des-Eaux B Unit 2. Those units are all off line presently and work on the pipes will be completed before they are returned to service, EDF said.
Work was half done – pipes reinforced at one of the two redundant water cooling systems – at six other reactors, Cattenom Units 1 and 2, Chinon B Unit 4, Cruas Unit 4, Dampierre Unit 4 and Nogent Unit 2.
While that makes 20, EDF also said that reinforcment work was also underway at Cruas Units 2 and 3, Paluel Units 3 and 4, Saint-Alban Units 1 and 2 and Tricastin Units 1, 3 and 4. The utility, however, did not consider potential risk at those plants to be as high as at the first 20.
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