Nuclear energy: French plants need strengthening
4 January 2012
"Nuclear energy: 10 billion need to ensure total safety," headlines French daily Le Figaro after the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), the country's nuclear watchdog, ruled that the French "nuclear fleet presents no defects but additional work is deemed necessary".
The ASN is not demanding an "immediate halt" to any of France's 58 reactors, but is requiring an "increase, as quickly as possible, in the sturdiness" of the installations when "faced with extreme conditions". "The goal is to better protect the reactors when faced with an exceptional 'accumulation of natural phenomena' or with a loss of electrical power or sources of coolant," Le Figaro explains.
The ASN has given the operator of Europe's largest nuclear fleet until June 30 to propose improvements in the fields of crisis management, communication, and of protection of sources of electrical power and water, adds French daily Le Monde. The ASN also calls for the creation of "a nuclear rapid action force," the paper says. This would consist, Le Monde explains, in "an emergency plan allowing teams and equipment to be sent to an accident site within 24 hours and which would be ready by 2014".
The cost of the work, estimated at €40 billion before the Fukushima catastrophe in March 2011, has been raised to €50 billion by Electricité de France (EDF) the French utility that operates the plants.