A report in The Times today could mean that nuclear reactors in Somerset contain faulty French components. The Times reports that plans for Hinkley Point C have been thrown into chaos after the admission that engineers have falsified vital safety tests on parts supplied to reactors in France and possibly the UK. Power Magazine says France’s nuclear sector has been rocked to its core.
A French state-owned factory – the Areva plant in Le Creusot, Burgundy – which has manufactured key components used in more than half of France’s 58 nuclear reactors, may have falsified safety reports on some of those components. Unverified components may also have been installed by EDF at some of the 15 reactors it owns in Britain.
Roy Pumfrey, spokesperson for Stop Hinkley, said: “What little credibility France’s nuclear sector had left has now completely evaporated. Surely now an end to Hinkley Point C is inevitable. If the Government doesn’t call a halt to this soon we will become the laughing stock of Europe.”
Meanwhile, Thomas Piquemal, EDF’s former chief financial officer, told France’s parliament on Wednesday that he had wanted to delay a final investment decision on building Hinkley Point C by at least three years. He said the weight of the project on EDF’s balance sheet would be significant and EDF cannot afford a credit rating downgrade.
The falsified documents have come to light because ASN ordered Areva to carry out an audit after it detected a “very serious anomaly” in the reactor pressure vessel at Flamanville – a nuclear plant being built in Normandy which is the same model as the ones planned for Hinkley Point C.
Flamanville is currently six years late and around €7.2bn over budget. Another reactor under construction, which is the same design, at Olkiluoto in Finland is expected to be almost ten years late and €5.5bn over budget. Hinkley Point C was originally expected to be generating ‘in time to cook Christmas dinner in 2017’.
Roy Pumfrey added: “As Albert Einstein is thought to have said ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. At the stroke of a pen David Cameron could launch projects sufficient to save or generate the same amount of electricity as Hinkley Point C which are capable of delivering long before 2025. And studies have shown that scrapping Hinkley Point and building renewable power instead could save the UK tens of billions of pounds.”