NHK Touts Areva’s EPR, Reality Is Not So Kind

NHK printed a story on their English website today touting Areva’s EPR reactor in Finland as the most awesome thing ever.

Areva says no radioactive substances would leak from the reactor compound even in the case of a serious accident like the one at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The reactor features 4 separate emergency cooling systems.

Also completed is the reactor building, which has a double shell that’s strong enough to withstand an aircraft crash.

The reality is that the Finnish plant is 75% over budget, years behind schedule and is plagued with the same construction and design flaws as the ones attempted in France.
Some of the issues at the Finnish EPR:

  • 3000 identified construction deficiencies as of January 2010 (source)
  • Substandard concrete foundations (source)
  • Contractors working on the reactor were inexperienced and poorly supervised (source)
  • Foreign workers did not share a common language (source)
  • Blueprints and guidelines were not approved (source)
  • Mandatory quality controls were skipped (source)
  • Deliberate cover up of structural defects (source)
  • Regulators in Finland express doubts about EPR safety (source)
  • Concrete quality problems
  • Welding problems

The Finnish reactor has not yet completed the documentation and final approvals from regulators. The problems above are just for the reactor in Finland. The budget over runs in Finland will be dumped on taxpayers and consumers.

Problems with the French EPR at Flamanville is much worse. The plant has been plagued by concrete problems, some so major they may cause the plant to be abandoned or ripped down to start over. French regulators have identified long list of problems and design flaws including not being up to seismic standards.  Officials have requested many design changes to safety problems they found in the reactor control systems and flaws in the airplane strike resistance of the reactor building (something NHK failed to mention). We previously documents this and many more issues that put the start of the French EPR reactor in serious doubt.

The UK had considered building EPR reactors, now that plan was dumped citing all the problems and design issues with the Flamanville EPR as a major reason.  Citibank in 2009 declared the UK initiative to build new reactors (the EPR)  not profitable and advised investors to avoid it.

The two EPR units being built in China are suffering from the same problems of shoddy concrete and construction issues.

Greenpeace also outlines some very concerning issues with the EPR.

  • It was leaked in 2003 that the reactor dome was not structurally sound enough to resist an aircraft strike.
  • Pathways and other vulnerabilities allow radioactivity to leak out of containment
  • Failures of containment steel liners and reactor pressure pipes (a major safety system)
  • The EPR would have a massive reactor core of MOX (plutonium-uranium) fuel. So unit 3 at Fukushima only on a massive scale
  • The EPR will produce large volumes of highly radioactive waste from their 100% MOX fuel use

MOX fuel has been cited as being too dangerous to run in existing reactors where only a small percentage of the fuel in the core is MOX. Areva has made no assurances that running a massive
core of 100% MOX in an EPR is controllable or safe.

So far the EPR is a money losing technical disaster, Areva’s sights may be set on Japan to attempt to sell them this boondoggle as a solution to their energy problems.

 

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