French electricity firm detects leak in pipe of Civaux nuclear reactor
The incident at the Civaux plant risks delaying its return to service at a time when France is worried about its ability to produce enough electricity over the winter.
France's state electricity firm EDF said on Tuesday that one of the nuclear plants in central France failed a safety check, raising concerns that the state will not be able to supply the country with the necessary power supplies for the coming winter.
During the test at the Civaux plant in Vienne, one of the pipes linked to the reactor cooling system ruptured. It is currently off for maintenance, and further tests are to be carried out at the plant.
It was previously shut in August 2021 due to the detection of deviations in the performance checks of these welds caused by corrosion and was scheduled to be back on stream by January 2.
But ruptures in the pipes might extend the delay, according to Regis Clement, the head of EDF's nuclear production unit.
According to Clement, the incident which occurred on November 2 "was absolutely not a weld that gave way," adding that one of the pipes connected to the cooling system had ruptured, leading high-pressure steam to escape, as well as a radioactive "metal object" that had to be retrieved via a robot.
Around 80 cubic meters of wastewater resulting from the leak had been captured.
"There is no risk for the environment or for public health," the deputy head of France's IRSN nuclear safety regulator, Karine Herviou, told franceinfo radio.
On July 27, France's nuclear safety authority ASN said it approved the strategy of the national electric utility EDF to repair stress corrosion cracks in several nuclear reactors.
The discovery of corroded welds at Civaux in August caused the EDF to shut down 12 reactors for a series of tests and maintenance to be carried out.
Nearly half of France's 56 reactors are currently under repair, which means that France will most definitely have to purchase electricity from the European electricity market this winter.
While the EDF is being heavily pressured by the government to speed up its maintenance work, Clement said the EDF is currently aiming to have 42 reactors operating by December 1 and 46 by January 1.
There are currently 30 nuclear reactors in full operation, Clement added.
With 500 expert welders currently at work on the cooling systems, an additional 100 were brought from the US and Canada.
Read more: Maintenance of four nuclear reactors in France extended