EPR (nuclear reactor)
The EPR is a third generation pressurised water reactor design. It has been designed and developed mainly by Framatome (part of Areva between 2001 and 2017) and Électricité de France (EDF) in France, and Siemens in Germany. In Europe this reactor design was called European Pressurised Reactor, and the internationalised name was Evolutionary Power Reactor, but it is now simply named EPR.
The first operational EPR unit was China's Taishan 1, which started in December 2018. Taishan 2 started operations in September 2019. The first two EPR units to start construction, at Olkiluoto in Finland and Flamanville in France, are both facing costly delays (to 2021 and 2023, respectively). Two units at Hinkley Point in the United Kingdom received final approval in September 2016 and are expected to be completed around 2026.
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.
First EPR design
The main design objectives of the third generation EPR design are increased safety while providing enhanced economic competitiveness through improvements to previous pressurised water reactor designs scaled up to an electrical power output of around 1650 MWe (net) with thermal power of 4500 MW. The reactor can use 5% enriched uranium oxide fuel, reprocessed uranium fuel or 100% mixed uranium plutonium oxide fuel. The EPR is the evolutionary descendant of the Framatome N4 and Siemens Power Generation Division "Konvoi" reactors. Siemens ceased its nuclear activities in 2011. 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.
The design had gone through a number of iterations. The 1994 conceptual design had a power output of 1450 MWe, the same as the Framatome N4, but using Siemens Konvoi derived instrumentation and including a new core catcher safety system. In 1995 there was concern over excessive cost per MW, and output was increased to 1800 MWe in the 2007 design, though this was subsequently reduced to 1650 MWe in the final certified design.
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 and core catcher)
- Two-layer concrete wall with total thickness 2.6 m, designed to withstand impact by aeroplanes and internal overpressure
"New Model" EPR design
In 2013[update] 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.
In September 2015 EDF's chief executive Jean-Bernard Lévy stated that the design of a "New Model" EPR, or "EPR 2", was being worked on, which will be easier to build, to be ready for orders from about 2020, describing it in 2016 as "a reactor offering the same characteristics as today’s EPR but it will be cheaper to build with optimised construction times and costs".
In 2016 EDF planned to build two New Model EPR reactors in France by 2030 to prepare for renewing its fleet of older reactors. However following financial difficulties at Areva, and its merger with EDF, French Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot said in January 2018 "for now [building a New Model EPR] is neither a priority or a plan. Right now the priority is to develop renewable energy and to reduce the share of nuclear." The industry-government plan for 2019–2022 included work on "a new version of the EPR".
In July 2019 the French nuclear safety authority ASN issued an opinion on the safety of an outline EPR New Model (EPR 2) design. It found that general safety was on the whole satisfactory, though identifying areas for further examination. The most notable simplification is a single layer containment building as opposed to the EPR’s double layer. ASN highlighted that the EPR design basis assumption that primary and secondary cooling circuit piping could not fail may no longer be appropriate for the simplified EPR 2, and requires additional safety demonstrations.
In 2020 Energy Minister Élisabeth Borne announced the government would not decide on the construction of any new reactors until the much delayed Flamanville 3 started operation after 2022. EDF had estimated building six EPR 2 nuclear reactors would cost at least €46 billion.
Olkiluoto 3 (Finland)
The construction of the Olkiluoto 3 power station in Finland commenced in August 2005. The station will have an electrical power output of 1600 MWe (net). 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, but the project has since seen several severe cost increments and delays, with latest cost estimates (from 2012) of more than €8 billion. The station was initially scheduled to go online in 2009, but operations are now expected to start in 2021.
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. The delays led to disappointing financial results for the Areva NP. It blamed delays on the Finnish approach to approving technical documentation and designs.
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.
At the end of June 2007, it was reported that Säteilyturvakeskus (STUK), the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, had found a number of safety-related design and manufacturing 'deficiencies'. 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 aeroplane crash, and the timely supply of adequate documentation to the Finnish authorities.
A further delay was announced in October 2008, making the total delay three years, giving an expected online date of 2012. The parties are in arbitration to resolve a dispute over responsibility for the delays and final cost overruns.
As of May 2009[update], 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". 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.
In June 2010, Areva announced €400 million of further provisions, taking the cost overrun to €2.7 billion. The timescale slipped from June 2012 to the end of 2012. In December 2011, TVO announced a further delay to August 2014. As of July 2012, the station was scheduled to start electricity production no earlier than 2015, a schedule slippage of at least six years. In December 2012 Areva's Chief Executive estimated costs to €8 billion.
In September 2014 Areva announced that operations would start in 2018. In October 2017 the date was pushed back to the beginning of 2019. During testing in 2018 and 2019 three further delays were announced, of over a year in total.
In December 2019 the commissioning schedule was revised again: regular electricity generation is due to start in March 2021.
Flamanville 3 (France)
First concrete was poured for the demonstration EPR reactor at the Flamanville Nuclear Power Plant on 6 December 2007. 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). The project was planned to involve around €3.3 billion of capital expenditure from EDF, but latest cost estimates (from 2019) are at €12.4 billion.
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 "favourable opinion" on the project. That summer, site preparation works began.
In December 2007 construction of the unit itself began. This was expected to last 54 months, with commissioning planned for 2012.
In April 2008, the French nuclear safety authority (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, which were raised very early in construction; however, on 21 May, ASN ordered a suspension of concrete pouring on the site. A month later, concreting work resumed after ASN accepted EDF's corrective action plan, which included external oversight checks.
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".
In August 2010, the regulator, ASN, reported further welding problems on the secondary containment steel liner. The same month, EDF announced that costs had increased 50% to €5 billion, and commissioning was delayed by about two years to 2014.
In July 2011, EDF announced that the estimated costs had escalated to €6 billion, and that completion of construction was delayed to 2016.
On 3 December 2012, EDF announced that the estimated costs had escalated to €8.5 billion.
In December 2012, the Italian power company Enel announced it was relinquishing its 12.5% stake in the project, and five future EPRs, so would be reimbursed its project stake of €613 million, plus interest.
In November 2014, EDF announced that completion of construction was delayed to 2017, due to delays in component delivery by Areva.
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. In July 2015 The Daily Telegraph reported that Areva had been aware of this problem since 2006.
In June 2015, multiple faults in cooling system safety valves were discovered by ASN.
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.
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.
In February 2017, the Financial Times stated the project was six years late, and €7.2 billion over budget, while renewed delays in the construction of the EPR-reactors at Taishan Nuclear Power Plant prompted EDF to state that Flamanville 3 remains on schedule to start operations by the end of 2018, assuming it receives regulatory approval. In June 2017, the French regulator issued a provisional ruling that Flamanville 3 is safe to start.
The discovery of quality deviations in the welding led to a further revision of the schedule in July 2018. Fuel loading was delayed until the end of 2019, and the cost estimate was increased from €10.5 billion to €10.9 billion.
In June 2019 the regulator ASN determined that eight welds in steam transfer pipes passing through the two wall containment, that EDF had hoped to repair after startup, must be repaired before the reactor is commissioned. In October 2019 EDF announced that because of this issue costs would increase to €12.4 billion and that fuel loading would be delayed until the end of 2022 (with regular electricity generation starting in 2023 at the earliest).
Taishan 1 and 2 (China)
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. However Areva lost this bid in favour of Westinghouse's AP1000 reactors, in part because of Areva's refusal to transfer the expertise and knowledge to China.
Subsequently 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. The General Contractor and Operator is the China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN).
The construction of the first reactor at Taishan started officially on 18 November 2009, and the second on 15 April 2010. Construction of each unit was then planned to take 46 months, significantly faster and cheaper than the first two EPRs in Finland and France.
The reactor pressure vessel of the first reactor was installed in June 2012, 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.
In 2014 construction was reported to be running over two years late, mainly due to key component delays and project management issues.
Cold function tests were performed on Taishan 1 in February 2016, with start up expected in the first half of 2017. Taishan 2 was scheduled to start up later that year. However, commissioning dates were put back six months in February 2017, with commercial operation expected in the second half of 2017 and the first half of 2018.
In December 2017, Hong Kong media reported that a component had cracked during testing, needing to be replaced. In January 2018 commissioning was rescheduled again, with commercial operation expected in 2018 and 2019.
In June 2018, Taishan 1 achieved criticality for the first time. It entered commercial operation in December 2018. Taishan 2 reached these milestones in May 2019 and September 2019, respectively.
Hinkley Point C (United Kingdom)
The EPR underwent Generic Design Assessment by the Office for Nuclear Regulation, along with the Westinghouse AP1000. Interim Design Acceptance Confirmations were postponed until lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster had been taken into account. EDF bought British Energy in 2009. EDF planned to build 4 new EPRs, subject to electricity pricing agreement with the government. Areva has signed a strategic partnership with Rolls-Royce to support the build of EPRs. 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 needed to be concluded.
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.
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 (€20 billion) project to build two reactors at Hinkley Point. However, legally binding contracts had not been agreed yet.
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". On 28 July 2016, after the resignation of a board member, the EDF board approved the project. 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". Final government approval was given in September 2016.
In July 2017, following an internal review, EDF announced revised estimates for the scheme, which included at least £1.5 billion of additional costs and up to 15 months of additional programme, leading to updated total cost estimates of £19.6-20.3 billion (€21.9-22.6 billion). In September 2019 cost estimates were revised again, to between £21.5 and £22.5 billion (€24-25.1 billion).
Possible future power stations
In July 2008 the French President announced a second EPR would be built in France due to high oil and gas prices. Penly was chosen as the site in 2009, with construction planned to start in 2012. However, in 2011, following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, EDF postponed public consultations. In February 2013, the Minister of Industrial Renewal Arnaud Montebourg stated that the plans for a new EPR reactor at Penly had been cancelled, citing the capacity for electricity production and massive investments in renewable energy along with his confidence in the EPR as a competitive project in foreign countries.
In October 2019, newspaper Le Monde reported that the French government had sent EDF a "mission letter" in which it asked the company to prepare to build a total of six EPR reactors across three sites in the next 15 years.
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.
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."
NPCIL has ambitions to build up to 9900 MW at the Jaitapur site, equating to six EPRs.
EPR was considered for the two (possible expansion to four) reactor addition to the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Ontario, Canada. However, the official bids had to include all contingencies, and Areva failed to enter a final bid meeting these requirements. The project was ultimately abandoned when the only bid, made by Canada's AECL, came in at well over $10/Wp.
EPR was briefly considered for an installation in New Brunswick, replacing or supplanting that province's single CANDU 6. These plans lasted only from June 2010 until an election two months later, when the plan immediately disappeared from further study.
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. In April 2014 CEZ cancelled a tender, because of low power prices and the government's refusal to support a minimum guaranteed energy price.
In 2010 the Finnish parliament decided to allow two new reactors. Both TVO and Fennovoima were considering the EPR. In December 2013 Fennovoima confirmed it had selected a Russian AES-2006 VVER pressurised water reactor in preference to the EPR.
On 24 February 2009, Italy and France agreed to study the feasibility of building 4 new nuclear power stations in Italy. 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.
However, in the 2011 referendum, soon after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Italians voted to repeal 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 Arab Emirates
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.
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.
After losing this order, Areva considered 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. As of 2011 Areva and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries offer a smaller 1100 MWe ATMEA1 Generation III PWR.
The US-EPR, the version of the EPR submitted to the U.S. regulator, 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). It had been under review there with expectation to submit an application for final design approval and standard design certification since 14 December 2007. 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. 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, and subsequently pulled out of the project. In October 2008, Areva announced that it will partner with US defense firm Northrop Grumman to establish a $380 million facility to construct modules and assemblies for the EPR and US-EPR reactors at Northrop Grumman's Newport News Shipyard in Virginia. The project was suspended indefinitely in May 2011.
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