French regulator: 900 MWe reactors OK for 40 years

07 July 2009

No generic problems have been found that would affect the ability of France's 900 MWe reactors to enjoy a 40-year operating life, the country's nuclear regulator has told plant operator Electricité de France (EdF).

In a formal letter to EdF, André-Claude Lacoste, president of France's Nuclear Safety Authority (Autorité de sûreté nucléaire, ASN), noted that on the basis of the evidence available to it, particularly generic studies and information on planned modifications, it had identified no matters causing concern for the safe operation of the reactors for 40 years after their original start-up dates.

ASN reviews all French reactors on a 10-yearly basis, and decisions on the continued operation of individual reactors will be made at a future date following the third round of such reviews, the regulator notes. The inspections are scheduled to take place in 2009 and 2010.

France operates three pressurised water reactor (PWR) designs, known as the 900 MWe, the 1300 MWe and the N4. Its 34 operating 900 MWe reactors came into commercial operation between 1977 and 1988, and include the oldest of the country's current nuclear fleet. All of the 900 MWe units were granted 10 year life extensions in 2002 after their second 10-yearly regulatory review, allowing them to operate for up to 30 years.

Last year EdF signed long-term contracts with both Alstom and Toshiba-Westinghouse to upgrade generating equipment at its nuclear power reactors. In 2007, it announced that its twenty 1300 MWe reactors would be uprated by some 7% from 2015, within existing licence limits, and adding about 15 TWh per year to output.