Montel Magazine 3 - 2020 - Page 23

How not to build a nuclear power plant

French auditors have delivered a stinging blow to the French nuclear industry with a withering report on the “ failure ” of EDF ’ s under construction Flamanville plant .
By Chris Eales » newsdesk @ montelnews . com
They could have called it “ How not to build a nuclear power plant ”. Instead , magistrates at France ’ s Cours des Comptes , the country ’ s supreme public spending watchdog , went for the anodyne title “ The EPR sector : thematic public report ”. Yet the 148-page probe from the state auditors , focusing on EDF ’ s under construction European pressurised reactor ( EPR ) at Flamanville , pulls no punches . The newbuild plant is a “ failure ” with “ huge ” financial consequences and implications for the French nuclear industry and beyond , it says .
Released in July , the report charts the steps that have led EDF and former reactor builder Areva ( now Framatome ), into a costly mire : from a far too hasty launch , through mismanagement and a striking lack of oversight to a string of costly setbacks .
“ It is not only an exceptional documentation of the failures and mishaps of project management , engineering and huge financial consequences , it is foremost an unprecedented illustration of the total absence of state oversight ,” writes nuclear industry critic and independent consultant Mycle Schneider in the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2020 , published in September .
Flamanville was supposed to be a flagship plant for a nuclear renaissance . Now , 13 years after its launch , the build is billions of euros over budget and a decade behind schedule . EDF ’ s latest start-up date , by 2023 , is in doubt given the potential for further coronavirusrelated delays . And , according to the auditors , the firm ’ s current EUR 12.4bn estimate of the construction cost is unreliable . A further EUR 6.7bn may be needed before the 1,600 MW reactor is commissioned , with financing costs in particular – due to delays – contributing around EUR 4.2bn extra .
What ’ s more , the interminable delays have driven up the estimated cost of power output from the plant to EUR 110-120 / MWh , well above the price of renewable wind and solar output , the auditors have calculated , adding EDF itself has failed to publish any cost estimates regarding Flamanville ’ s generation for over 10 years .
There are two other European EPR builds , Olkiluoto in Finland and Hinkley Point in England . All come in for criticism from the auditors , who point to more delays at Olkiluoto – being built by Finland ’ s TVO – and “ risks ” at Hinkley Point , which are “ weighing heavily on EDF ’ s finances ”. The two completed EPRs sited in Taishan , China , meanwhile , are showing insufficient profitability ”, the auditors say .
So how did it all go wrong ? EDF and Areva , were at loggerheads from the start . Both state- owned , each wanted to be first in the world to ➤
Montel Magazine 3 – 2020