Atmea1 safety features meet French requirements

07 February 2012

Following an 18-month review, the French nuclear safety regulator has given its preliminary approval of the safety options for the Atmea1 reactor design. The decision marks an important step to demonstrate the licensability of the 'mid sized' pressurized water reactor.

Atmea - the 50-50 joint venture formed in late 2007 between Areva and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) - requested that the French nuclear safety regulator, the Autorité De Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), conduct a review of the safety features of the Atmea1 design.

A cutaway of a nuclear power plant based on the Atmea1 reactor

The ASN noted that, while the review was not conducted as part of the actual licensing of the reactor design in France, "it was carried out in the same conditions as those applicable to the creation of basic nuclear installations in France."

The regulator concluded that based on the information it had received from the Atmea company, it considers that the safety features and design choices selected for the main equipment of the Atmea1 reactor are "generally satisfactory" with regards to current French requirements. It added, "In a French context, this opinion would be a preliminary to the creation authorization procedure for such a reactor." The ASN noted that in France, "the creation of an authorization application is submitted by the licensee and not by the designer of the reactor."

However, the regulator said that the Atmea1 safety features will need to be reviewed at the time of licensing to take into account the legislation in force at that time.

At the detail design stage, the ASN said, the Atmea company must be "particularly vigilant" in minimizing worker radiation doses and "of course must continue to take into account the lessons learnt from the accident which occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan."

The Atmea1 reactor is a 1100 MWe pressurized water reactor (PWR) which combines technologies from Areva and MHI. According to the companies, the design features long operation cycles, short refuelling outages and the load-following ability to adjust power output by 5% per minute. It will be marketed at emerging countries wishing to begin nuclear power programs, as well as established markets such as the USA and Europe. The Atmea1's safety features include both passive and active systems, including a core catcher.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News