European Pressurized Reactor

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Computer generated view of an EPR power plant
Pressure vessel of the EPR

The EPR is a third generation pressurized water reactor (PWR) design. It has been designed and developed mainly by Framatome (now Areva NP), Electricité de France (EDF) in France, and Siemens AG in Germany. In Europe this reactor design was called European Pressurized Reactor, and the internationalized name was Evolutionary Power Reactor, but it is now simply named EPR by Areva.

As of 2011, four EPR units are under construction. The first two, in Finland and France, are both facing costly construction delays (to at least 2016). Construction commenced on two additional Chinese units in 2009 and 2010. The Chinese constructions are more or less on schedule and are due to start operation in 2014 and 2015.[1]

Design[edit]

The main design objectives of the generation III EPR design are increased safety while providing enhanced economic competitiveness through improvements to previous PWR designs scaled up to an electrical power output of around 1650 MWe (net)[2] with thermal power 4500 MWt. The reactor can use 5% enriched uranium oxide fuel, reprocessed uranium fuel and 100% mixed uranium plutonium oxide fuel. The EPR is the evolutionary descendant of the Framatome N4 and Siemens Power Generation Division "Konvoi" reactors.[3][4]

The EPR design has several active and passive protection measures against accidents:

  • Four independent emergency cooling systems, providing the required cooling of the decay heat that continues for 1 to 3 years after the reactor's initial shutdown (i.e. 300% redundancy)
  • Leaktight containment around the reactor
  • An extra container and cooling area if a molten core manages to escape the reactor (see containment building)
  • Two-layer concrete wall with total thickness 2.6 meters, designed to withstand impact by aeroplanes and internal overpressure

The EPR has a design maximum core damage frequency of 6.1 × 10−7 per plant per year.[5]

The EPR was designed to use uranium more efficiently than older Generation II reactors, using approximately 17% less uranium per unit of electricity generated than these older reactor technologies.[6]

The Union of Concerned Scientists referred to the EPR in Dec 2007 as the only new reactor design under consideration in the United States that "...appears to have the potential to be significantly safer and more secure against attack than today's reactors."[7]

On 4 November 2009, the nuclear power regulatory authorities in France, Finland and the United Kingdom issued a joint letter to Areva, citing serious problems with the EPR's digital Instrumentation and Control systems (I&C).[8] The letter stated:

"The issue is primarily around ensuring the adequacy of the safety systems (those used to maintain control of the plant if it goes outside normal conditions), and their independence from the control systems (those used to operate the plant under normal conditions).

Independence is important because, if a safety system provides protection against the failure of a control system, then they should not fail together. The EPR design, as originally proposed by the licensees and the manufacturer, AREVA, doesn’t comply with the independence principle, as there is a very high degree of complex interconnectivity between the control and safety systems."

In 2013 EDF acknowledged the difficulties it was having building the EPR design, with its head of production and engineering, Hervé Machenaud, saying EDF had lost its dominant international position in design and construction of nuclear power stations. Machenaud indicated EDF was considering designing two new lower powered reactors, one with output of 1,500 MWe and the other 1,000 MWe. Machenaud stated there would be a period of reflection on the best way to improve the EPR design to lower its price and incorporate post-Fukushima safety improvements.[9]

Olkiluoto 3 (Areva's first plant)[edit]

Olkiluoto-3 under construction in 2009. As of December 2013, it is scheduled to start electricity production at earliest in 2016, a delay of at least seven years.

The construction of the Olkiluoto 3[10] power plant in Finland commenced in August 2005. It was initially scheduled to go online in 2009,[11] but the project has suffered many delays, and according to the customer's estimate the operation is expected to start at earliest in 2016, while the manufacturer has stopped giving out estimates of the project's completion.[12] The plant will have an electrical power output of 1600 MWe (net).[2] The construction is a joint effort of French Areva and German Siemens AG through their common subsidiary Areva NP, for Finnish operator TVO. Initial cost estimates were about €3.7 billion,[13] but the project has since seen several severe cost increments and delays.

Progress[edit]

In May 2006, construction delays of about one year were announced, following quality control problems across the construction. In part the delays were due to the lack of oversight of subcontractors inexperienced in nuclear construction.[14][15] The delays led to disappointing financial results for the Areva NP. It blamed delays on the Finnish approach to approving technical documentation and designs.[16][17]

In December 2006, TVO announced construction was about 18 months behind schedule so completion was now expected 2010–11, and there were reports that Areva was preparing to take a €500 million charge on its accounts for the delay.[18][19]

At the end of June 2007, it was reported that Säteilyturvakeskus, the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, had found a number of safety-related design and manufacturing 'deficiencies'.[20] In August 2007, a further construction delay of up to a year was reported associated with construction problems in reinforcing the reactor building to withstand an airplane crash, and the timely supply of adequate documentation to the Finnish authorities.[21][22][23]

In September 2007, TVO reported the construction delay as "at least two years" and costs more than 25% over budget.[24] Cost estimates by analysts for the overrun range up to €1.5 billion.[25]

A further delay was announced in October 2008, making the total delay three years, giving an expected online date of 2012.[26] The parties are in arbitration to resolve a dispute over responsibility for the delays and final cost overruns.[27][28]

As of May 2009, the plant was at least three and a half years behind schedule and more than 50 percent over-budget. Areva and the utility involved "are in bitter dispute over who will bear the cost overruns and there is a real risk now that the utility will default".[29] In August 2009, Areva announced €550 million additional provisions for the build, taking plant costs to €5.3 billion, and wiped out interim operating profits for the first half-year of 2009.[30]

The dome of the containment structure was topped out in September 2009.[31] 90% of procurement, 80% of engineering works and 73% of civil works were completed.[32]

In June 2010, Areva announced €400 million of further provisions, taking the cost overrun to €2.7 billion. The timescale slipped to the end of 2012 from June 2012,[33][34] Areva’s Overruns at Finnish Nuclear Plant Approach Initial Cost with operation set to start in 2013.[35] In December 2011, TVO announced a further delay to August 2014.[36] As of July 2012, the plant is scheduled to start electricity production no earlier than 2015, a schedule slippage of at least six years.[37] In December 2012 Areva's Chief Executive estimated costs to €8 billion.[38]

Flamanville 3 (EDF's first plant)[edit]

First concrete was poured for the demonstration EPR reactor at the Flamanville Nuclear Power Plant on 6 December 2007.[39] As the name implies this will be the third nuclear reactor on the Flamanville site and the second instance of an EPR being built. Electrical output will be 1630 MWe (net)[2] and the project involves around €3.3 billion of capital expenditure from EdF.[40] The following is a condensed timeline for the unit:

  • From 19 October 2005 to 18 February 2006 the project was submitted to a national public debate.
  • On 4 May 2006 the decision was made by EDF's Board of Directors to continue with the construction.
  • Between 15 June and 31 July 2006 the unit underwent a public enquiry, which rendered a "favorable opinion" on the project.[41]
  • In Summer 2006 site preparation works began.
  • In December 2007 construction of the unit itself began. This is expected to last 54 months.
  • In May 2009 Professor Stephen Thomas reported that after 18 months of construction and after a series of quality control problems, the project is "more than 20 percent over budget and EDF is struggling to keep it on schedule".[29]
  • In 2010 EDF announced that costs had increased 50% to €5 billion, and commissioning was delayed by about two years to 2014.[42]
  • In July 2011 EDF announced that the estimated costs have escalated to €6 billion and that completion of construction is delayed to 2016[43]
  • On 3 December 2012 EDF announced that the estimated costs have escalated to €8.5 billion[44]
  • In December 2012 the Italian power company Enel announced it was relinquishing its 12.5% stake in the project, and 5 future EPRs, so would be reimbursed its project stake of €613 million plus interest.[45][46]

Protests[edit]

  • On 17 March 2007 simultaneous protests were staged by Sortir du nucléaire in five French towns to protest construction of EPR plants; Rennes, Lyon, Toulouse, Lille, and Strasbourg.[47][48][49]
  • On 26 April 2007 (the 21st anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster) around 30 protesters blocked entrances and chained themselves to cranes at the EPR site in Flamanville, some remaining on the site for 24 hours. A truck was also parked in front of the entrance to block its access.[50]
  • In November 2011 EDF was condemned in court for "hacking" Greenpeace computers during the 2006 public debate.[51]

Progress[edit]

In April 2008 the French nuclear safety agency (Autorité de sûreté nucléaire, ASN) reported that a quarter of the welds inspected in the secondary containment steel liner are not in accordance with norms, and that cracks have been found in the concrete base. EDF stated that progress is being made on these issues raised very early in construction;[52] however, on 21 May ASN ordered a suspension of concrete pouring on the site.[53] A month later concreting work resumed after ASN accepted EDF's corrective action plan which included external oversight checks.[54]

In August 2010 the regulator, ASN, reported further welding problems on the secondary containment steel liner.[42]

Taishan 1 & 2 (CGNPC's first plants)[edit]

In 2006, there was a bidding in process to build four new nuclear reactors in China,[55] Areva SA lost this bid in favor of Westinghouse Electric Company to build four AP1000 reactors, because of its refusal to transfer the expertise and knowledge to China.
In February 2007 Areva won a deal, worth about €8 billion[56] ($10.5 billion) for two EPRs located in Taishan, Guangdong Province in southern China, in spite of sticking to its previous conditions.[57] This would make the Taishan EPRs about half the cost of Olkiluoto. The General Contractor and Operator is the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Company. In November 2007, French president Nicolas Sarkozy signed a $12 billion deal that will allow the third and fourth EPR units to be constructed in China.[58]

Progress[edit]

The construction of the first reactor at Taishan started officially on 18 November 2009, and the second on 15 April 2010.[59] Construction of each unit is planned to take 46 months, significantly faster and cheaper than the first two EPRs in Finland and France.[60] This means the unit will be finished in March 2014.

The vessel of the first reactor has been installed in June 2012.[61]

Future power plants[edit]

France[edit]

In July 2008 the French President announced a second EPR would be built in France due to high oil and gas prices.[62] Penly was chosen as the site in 2009, with construction planned to start in 2012.[63] However, in 2011, following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, EdF postponed public consultations putting in doubt the 2012 construction start date.[64]

United Kingdom[edit]

The EPR is undergoing Generic Design Assessment by the Office for Nuclear Regulation, along with the Westinghouse AP1000.[65] Interim Design Acceptance Confirmations were postponed until lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster have been taken into account.[66]

EDF bought British Energy in 2009. EDF plans to build 4 new EPRs,[67] subject to electricity pricing agreement with the government.[68][69] NuGeneration also want to build new nuclear power, possibly 2 EPRs or 3 AP1000s.[70]

Areva has signed a strategic partnership with Rolls-Royce to support the build of EPRs.[71] On 19 March 2013 planning consent for Hinkley Point C nuclear power station was given, but difficult negotiations with the UK government about electricity pricing, and project financing with private investors, still need to be concluded before building starts.[72]

On 21 October 2013, EDF Energy announced that an agreement had been reached regarding the nuclear plants to be built on the site of Hinkley Point C. EDF Group and the UK Government agreed on the key commercial terms of the investment contract. The final investment decision is still conditional on completion of the remaining key steps, including the agreement of the European Commission.

Finland[edit]

In 2010 the Finnish parliament decided to allow two new reactors. Both TVO and Fennovoima were considering the EPR.[73][74] In December 2013 Fennovoima confirmed it had selected a Russian AES-2006 VVER pressurized water reactor in preference to the EPR.[75]

United States[edit]

The US-EPR[clarification needed] is one of the competitors for the next generation of nuclear plants in the United States, along with the AP1000 and the ESBWR. It is currently in the Design Certification Application Review process at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), with expectation to submit an application for final design approval and standard design certification on 14 December 2007.[76] UniStar, Amarillo Power, PPL Corp and AmerenUE announced plans to file a Combined Construction and Operating License application in 2008 for the US-EPR at its Callaway plant. UniStar filed a partial application in July 2007 for a proposed third unit at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Maryland. However, both proposals were subsequently cancelled.

In April 2009, Missouri legislators balked at preconstruction rate increases, prompting AmerenUE to suspend plans for its reactor.[77][78] In July 2010, Constellation Energy Group cut spending on UniStar for the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant because of uncertainties for a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy,[79][80] and subsequently pulled out of the project.[81] In October 2008, Areva announced that it will partner with US defense firm Northrop Grumman to establish a US$380 million facility to construct modules and assemblies for the EPR and US-EPR reactors at Northrop Grumman's Newport News Shipyard in Virginia.[82][83] The project was suspended indefinitely in May 2011[84]

India[edit]

In February 2009, NPCIL Signed MOU with Areva to set up two 1650 MWe reactors at Jaitapur in Maharashtra.

In December 2010, NPCIL signed a framework with Areva for 2 EPRs and 25 years' supply of nuclear fuel.[85] The contract and pricing is yet to be finalised. Construction is unlikely to start before 2014 because of regulatory issues and difficulty in sourcing major components from Japan due to India not being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.[86]

NPCIL has ambitions to build up to 9900MW at the Jaitapur site, equating to 6 EPRs.[87]

Lost opportunities[edit]

Abu Dhabi[edit]

In March 2008, French president Nicolas Sarkozy reached an agreement with the UAE cabinet that "outlines a cooperation framework for the assessment and possible use of nuclear energy for peaceful ends." This agreement was not a contract for EPR construction by any of the French nuclear companies, Total S.A., Suez or Areva.[88]

In May 2009, US President Barack Obama signed a similar agreement with the UAE. The deal, which has not yet been ratified by the US Congress, pledges US aid in the development of a civilian nuclear energy program in the UAE. Contracts for reactors were not given, nor was there any guarantee made that US companies would receive them.[89]

In December 2009 the United Arab Emirates declined both the American and French bids and awarded a contract for construction of four non-EPR plants (APR-1400) to a South Korean group including Korea Electric Power Corporation, Hyundai Engineering and Construction, Samsung and Doosan Heavy Industries.[90]

After losing this order, Areva is considering whether it should reintroduce the marketing of a smaller and simpler second-generation reactor design alongside the EPR, for countries that are new to nuclear power.[91] As of 2011 Areva and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries offer a smaller 1100MWe ATMEA1 Generation III PWR, although none have been ordered so far.[92]

Italy[edit]

On 24 February 2009, Italy and France agreed to study the feasibility of building 4 new nuclear power stations in Italy.[93] Following this, on 3 August 2009, EDF and Enel established a joint venture, Sviluppo Nucleare Italia, to study the feasibility of building at least four EPRs.[94]

However, in the 2011 referendum, soon after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Italians voted to abrogate the new regulations permitting nuclear power in Italy. Abrogation of laws is put in effect when at least 50%+1 electors make a valid vote and a majority of these voters are in favour of abrogation. In this referendum there was a 55% valid voter turnout and 94% voted to abrogate the new regulations.

See also[edit]

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External links[edit]