EPR (nuclear reactor)

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Computer generated view of an EPR power station
Reactor 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) and Électricité de France (EDF) in France, and Siemens 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.

Four EPR units are under construction. The first two, in Finland and France, are both facing costly construction delays (to at least 2018). Construction commenced on two Chinese units in 2009 and 2010.[1] The Chinese units were to start operation in 2014 and 2015,[2] but are now expected to come online in 2017.[3] Two units at Hinkley Point in the United Kingdom received final approval in September 2016 and are expected to be completed by 2025.[4]

EDF has acknowledged severe difficulties in building the EPR design. In September 2015 EDF stated that the design of a "New Model" EPR was being worked on, which will be easier and cheaper to build.[5]

Design[edit]

The main design objectives of the third generation 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 MW (net)[6] with thermal power 4500 MW. 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.[7][8] Siemens ceased its nuclear activities in 2011.

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

  • Four independent emergency cooling systems, each 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 m, designed to withstand impact by aeroplanes and internal overpressure

The EPR has a design maximum core damage frequency of 6.1 × 10−7 per station per year.[9]

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.[10]

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."[11]

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).[12] The letter stated:

"The issue is primarily around ensuring the adequacy of the safety systems (those used to maintain control of the station if it goes outside normal conditions), and their independence from the control systems (those used to operate the station 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.[13]

In September 2015 EDF's chief executive Jean-Bernard Lévy stated that the design of a "New Model" EPR was being worked on, which will be easier and cheaper to build, to be ready for orders from about 2020.[5]

Olkiluoto 3 (Finland)[edit]

Olkiluoto-3 under construction in 2009. It is scheduled to start electricity production in 2018, a delay of nine years.

The construction of the Olkiluoto 3[14] power station in Finland commenced in August 2005. It was initially scheduled to go online in 2009,[15] but the project has suffered many delays, and according to Areva operations are expected to start in 2018.[16] The station will have an electrical power output of 1600 MWe (net).[6] The construction was a joint effort of French Areva and German Siemens AG through their common subsidiary Areva NP, for Finnish operator TVO. Siemens ceased nuclear activities in 2011. Initial cost estimates were about €3.7 billion,[17] 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.[18][19] The delays led to disappointing financial results for the Areva NP. It blamed delays on the Finnish approach to approving technical documentation and designs.[20][21]

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.[22][23]

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'.[24] 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.[25][26][27]

In September 2007, TVO reported the construction delay as "at least two years" and costs more than 25% over budget.[28] Cost estimates by analysts for the overrun range up to €1.5 billion.[29]

A further delay was announced in October 2008, making the total delay three years, giving an expected online date of 2012.[30] The parties are in arbitration to resolve a dispute over responsibility for the delays and final cost overruns.[31][32]

As of May 2009, the station 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".[33] In August 2009, Areva announced €550 million additional provisions for the build, taking station costs to €5.3 billion, and wiped out interim operating profits for the first half-year of 2009.[34]

The dome of the containment structure was topped out in September 2009.[35] 90% of procurement, 80% of engineering works and 73% of civil works were completed.[36]

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,[37][38] Areva’s Overruns at Finnish Nuclear Station Approach Initial Cost with operation set to start in 2013.[39] In December 2011, TVO announced a further delay to August 2014.[40] As of July 2012, the station was scheduled to start electricity production no earlier than 2015, a schedule slippage of at least six years.[41] In December 2012 Areva's Chief Executive estimated costs to €8 billion.[42]

In September 2014 Areva announced that operations would start in 2018.[16]

Flamanville 3 (France)[edit]

EDF has said its Flamanville 3 project (seen here in 2010) will be delayed until 2018[43]
A scene from the 2007 Stop EPR protest in Toulouse, France

First concrete was poured for the demonstration EPR reactor at the Flamanville Nuclear Power Plant on 6 December 2007.[44] 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)[6] and the project involves around €3.3 billion of capital expenditure from EDF.[45]

Progress[edit]

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.[46] That summer site preparation works began.

On March 17, 2007 simultaneous protests, organised by Sortir du nucléaire, were staged in five French towns to protest construction of EPR stations; Rennes, Lyon, Toulouse, Lille, and Strasbourg.[47][48] In December 2007 construction of the unit itself began. This was expected to last 54 months.

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 was being made on these issues raised very early in construction;[49] however, on 21 May ASN ordered a suspension of concrete pouring on the site.[50] A month later concreting work resumed after ASN accepted EDF's corrective action plan which included external oversight checks.[51]

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".[33]

In August 2010 the regulator, ASN, reported further welding problems on the secondary containment steel liner.[52] The same month EDF announced that costs had increased 50% to €5 billion, and commissioning was delayed by about two years to 2014.[52]

In July 2011 EDF announced that the estimated costs had escalated to €6 billion and that completion of construction was delayed to 2016[53]

On 3 December 2012 EDF announced that the estimated costs had escalated to €8.5 billion[54]

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.[55][56]

In November 2014 EDF announced that completion of construction was delayed to 2017 due to delays in component delivery by Areva.[57]

In April 2015 Areva informed the French nuclear regulator ASN that anomalies had been detected in the reactor vessel steel, causing "lower than expected mechanical toughness values". Further tests are underway.[58] In July 2015 The Daily Telegraph reported that Areva had been aware of this problem since 2006.[59]

In June 2015 multiple faults in cooling system safety valves were discovered by ASN.[60]

In September 2015 EDF announced that the estimated costs had escalated to €10.5 billion, and the start-up of the reactor was delayed to the fourth quarter of 2018.[43]

In April 2016 ASN announced that additional weak spots had been found in the reactor steel, and Areva and EDF responded that new tests would be conducted, though construction work would continue.[61]

Taishan 1 & 2 (China)[edit]

In 2006, Areva took part in the first bidding process for the construction of four new nuclear reactors in China, together with Toshiba-owned Westinghouse and Russian Atomstroyexport.[62] However Areva lost this bid in favor of Westinghouse's AP1000 reactors, in part because of Areva's refusal to transfer the expertise and knowledge to China.[citation needed]

Following this Areva managed to win a deal in February 2007, worth about €8 billion ($10.5 billion) for two EPRs located in Taishan, Guangdong Province in southern China, in spite of sticking to its previous conditions.[63][64] The General Contractor and Operator is the China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN). As of December 2012 the two Taishan EPRs will cost about the same as the single EPR being built in the Finnish Olkiluoto for estimated €8.5 billion.

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.[65]

Progress[edit]

The construction of the first reactor at Taishan started officially on 18 November 2009, and the second on 15 April 2010.[66] Construction of each unit was then planned to take 46 months, significantly faster and cheaper than the first two EPRs in Finland and France.[67] This means the unit should have been finished in March 2014.

The reactor pressure vessel of the first reactor was installed in June 2012,[68] and the second in November 2014. The first pressure vessel had been imported from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan, and steam generators from Areva in France. The second pressure vessel and associated steam generators had been made in China, by Dongfang Electric and Shanghai Electric.[69]

In 2014 the build was reported to be running over two years late, mainly due to key component delays and project management issues.[70]

In February 2016 cold function tests were performed on Taishan 1, with start up expected in the first half of 2017. Taishan 2 is scheduled to start up later that year.[3]

Hinkley Point C (United Kingdom)[edit]

The EPR underwent Generic Design Assessment by the Office for Nuclear Regulation, along with the Westinghouse AP1000.[71] Interim Design Acceptance Confirmations were postponed until lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster had been taken into account.[72] EDF bought British Energy in 2009. EDF planned to build 4 new EPRs,[73] subject to electricity pricing agreement with the government.[74][75] Areva has signed a strategic partnership with Rolls-Royce to support the build of EPRs.[76] On 19 March 2013 planning consent for Hinkley Point C nuclear power station was given,[77] but difficult negotiations with the UK government about electricity pricing, and project financing with private investors, needed to be concluded before building starts.[78]

On 21 October 2013, EDF Energy announced that an agreement had been reached regarding the nuclear stations 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 was conditional on completion of the remaining key steps, including the agreement of the European Commission.

On 8 October 2014 the European Commission announced their agreement, with 16 out of 28 commissioners agreeing with the go ahead of the construction. On 21 September 2015 the British government announced it would provide a £2 billion support package for Hinkley Point C as Britain's first nuclear power station in 20 years.[79]

On 21 October 2015, during Chinese president Xi Jinping's state visit to the United Kingdom, EDF and CGN signed an investment agreement for the £18 billion (€21.5 billion) project to build two reactors at Hinkley Point.[80] However, legally binding contracts had not been agreed yet.[81]

In June 2016, EDF managers told Members of Parliament that the Hinkley Point C proposal should be postponed, until it has "solved a litany of problems", including EDFs "soaring debts".[82]

On 28 July 2016, after the resignation of a board member, the EDF board approved the project.[83] However Greg Clark, the new Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in the new government of Theresa May, then announced that the government would not sign the contract over the next few days as expected, but delay the contract to autumn to "consider carefully all the component parts of this project".[84] Final government approval was given in September 2016.[4] The units are expected to enter service in 2025.

Possible future power stations[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.[85] Penly was chosen as the site in 2009, with construction planned to start in 2012.[86] However, in 2011, following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, EDF postponed public consultations.[87] In 2013, EDF confirmed there was no start plan for Penly, as expected demand did not warrant it.[88]

India[edit]

In February 2009, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) signed a memorandum of understanding with Areva to set up two 1650 MWe reactors at Jaitapur in Maharashtra. This was followed by a framework agreement in December 2010.[89]

In January 2016, during French president François Hollande's state visit to India a joint statement with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was issued. According to the statement the two leaders "have agreed on a roadmap of cooperation to speed up discussions on the Jaitapur project in 2016. Their shared aim is to start the implementation of the project in early 2017."[90]

NPCIL has ambitions to build up to 9900 MW at the Jaitapur site, equating to 6 EPRs.[91]

Unsuccessful proposals[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.[92]

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.[93]

In December 2009 the United Arab Emirates declined both the American and French bids and awarded a contract for construction of four non-EPR stations (APR-1400) to a South Korean group including Korea Electric Power Corporation, Hyundai Engineering and Construction, Samsung and Doosan Heavy Industries.[94]

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.[95] As of 2011 Areva and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries offer a smaller 1100 MWe ATMEA1 Generation III PWR.[96]

Italy[edit]

On 24 February 2009, Italy and France agreed to study the feasibility of building 4 new nuclear power stations in Italy.[97] 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.[98]

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.

United States[edit]

The US-EPR, the version of the EPR submitted to the U.S. regulator,[99] is one of the competitors for the next generation of nuclear stations in the United States, along with the AP1000 and the ESBWR. In February 2015 Areva asked to suspend the Design Certification Application Review process at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).[99] It had been under review there with expectation to submit an application for final design approval and standard design certification since 14 December 2007.[100] 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 station. 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.[101][102] In July 2010, Constellation Energy Group cut spending on UniStar for the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station because of uncertainties for a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy,[103][104] and subsequently pulled out of the project.[105] 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.[106][107] The project was suspended indefinitely in May 2011.[108]

Finland[edit]

In 2010 the Finnish parliament decided to allow two new reactors. Both TVO and Fennovoima were considering the EPR.[109][110] In December 2013 Fennovoima confirmed it had selected a Russian AES-2006 VVER pressurized water reactor in preference to the EPR.[111]

The Czech Republic[edit]

In October 2012 CEZ announced that Areva was eliminated from the tender for the construction of 2 reactors for Temelin nuclear plant. Areva failed to comply with legal requirements of the tender.[112] In April 2014 CEZ cancelled a tender, because of low power prices and the government's refusal to support a minimum guaranteed energy price.[113]

See also[edit]

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External links[edit]