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FDE contractors loosen up radiation publicity limits to hurry up reactor repairs

The corporate, which is speeding to arrange its fleet of nuclear energy vegetation for the winter, mentioned the brand new threshold met its personal requirements and remained nicely under French authorized limits.

“We’ve got been knowledgeable by a few of our companions that they’re planning to extend the radiation publicity restrict for a few of their workers,” EDF mentioned in feedback emailed on Friday, in response to a Reuters request.

“The actions in progress in our energy vegetation result in the next variety of hours labored within the nuclear a part of our websites. This extra exercise had not been deliberate by our companions once they fastened their radiation limits”, specified the corporate.

Two sources with direct data of the restore work advised Reuters that at the very least one EDF contractor, the French firm Monteiro, had already elevated the utmost publicity to which its staff might be subjected, including that this posed no danger to well being.

A spokeswoman for Monteiro had no instant remark.

The sources mentioned the adjustments to the protection recommendation illustrated EDF’s race in opposition to time to restart 15 reactors that had been taken out of service final winter after stress corrosion outbreaks at some vegetation.

Fourteen different reactors are additionally off the grid for normal upkeep and to save lots of gas earlier than winter, which signifies that 54% of France’s nuclear fleet – the most important on this planet after the US – is out of service.

The unprecedented variety of blackouts – which happen as Europe scrambles to search out different sources of provide to Russian gasoline – has worsened the continent-wide vitality scarcity and contributed to greater oil costs. electrical energy at file ranges.

French nuclear manufacturing is at its lowest stage for 30 years. EDF mentioned on Thursday it anticipated the drop in manufacturing to squeeze 29 billion euros from its base revenue for 2022, its fifth revenue warning for the 12 months.

The corporate blamed a scarcity of expert professionals and radiation dangers for a upkeep schedule that left France, lengthy Europe’s greatest electrical energy exporter, importing energy from its neighbors even earlier than that the temperatures don’t drop.

Staff who examine and restore the vegetation must function in part of the reactor the place radiation is excessive, to allow them to solely spend a restricted period of time there, EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Levy mentioned final month.

EDF has mentioned it expects to fulfill its timetable for restarting the 29 reactors at present out of service by February 18, though some analysts say that’s too optimistic.


To assist EDF meet the schedule, Monteiro – which provides EDF welders – raised the annual radiation publicity restrict for its staff to 14 millisieverts from 12 beforehand, the 2 sources mentioned. This determine stays nicely under the French authorized restrict of 20 millisieverts for staff within the nuclear sector, they added.

“We attempt to follow our ideas and simply because we’re in a disaster does not imply we will let individuals burn,” mentioned one of many two sources, who each work within the nuclear trade.

The millisievert is a unit measuring the radiation dose gathered over a sure time frame by a person.

Along with Monteiro, Reuters contacted 5 different French contractors employed by EDF. Three of them didn’t reply to a request for remark, one declined to remark and one was not instantly obtainable for remark.

An adviser to the vitality ministry, who requested to not be named, mentioned the French nuclear security company ASN acted in a “strictly unbiased method” to make sure the safety of staff within the sector, including that publicity of 14 millisieverts was the equal of two chest scans.

EDF mentioned 14 millisievert was the utmost present radiation publicity the corporate allowed for its workers and the benchmark for its contractors, though some opted for decrease limits.

One of many sources who spoke to Reuters mentioned it was uncommon for EDF staff to succeed in an publicity stage above 9 millisievert. EDF didn’t remark.


In keeping with the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Results of Atomic Radiation, publicity under 200 millisieverts is taken into account low and under 20 millisieverts very low.

Klervi Leuraud, a radiation professional on the French Institute for Radiation Safety and Nuclear Security IRSN, mentioned the 14 millisievert threshold remained nicely under ranges thought-about to pose a well being danger.

One of many sources who spoke to Reuters mentioned the employees repairing the reactors had been working underneath tough situations.

“Individuals are working in a confined space, repairing 3 centimeter extensive pipes in websites no larger than a Parisian studio. We attempt to make the job secure and get the job carried out on time, however the risks are many,” the supply mentioned.

“Employees must be rotated and the issue is that that is extraordinarily specialist work and there are a restricted variety of individuals with the required abilities.”

EDF has introduced in a whole lot of expert staff, together with welders and pipefitters from six French contractors, US nuclear energy plant maker Westinghouse Electrical Firm and one other US agency, the sources mentioned.

One of many causes for hiring Westinghouse is that it makes robots that do a number of the welding and haven’t any radiation publicity limits, one of many sources mentioned.

EDF has additionally bought substitute pipes from neighboring Italy. However sources mentioned sudden glitches – a number of the pipes despatched by Italian suppliers had been the unsuitable dimension – and complicated high quality management procedures are slowing down repairs.

Every pipe weld can take as much as three days and a whole lot of doc signatures, they mentioned. EDF advised Reuters it was regular to must readjust substitute elements as a result of they by no means got here to the fitting dimension.

Authorities ministers have publicly urged EDF to stay to its upkeep schedule. The corporate expects sufficient reactors to be again in service by December-January to make sure nuclear manufacturing ranges according to final 12 months.

Nevertheless, one of many sources mentioned expectations that the welds on EDF’s Civaux 1 reactor – one in every of EDF’s strongest, with a capability of 1,450 megawatts – can be accomplished inside the subsequent six weeks.” appear unrealistic”.

The supply mentioned solely six out of 30 welds had been accomplished thus far on the reactor. A seventh weld accomplished this week was defective and must be redone, the supply mentioned.

In its feedback to Reuters, EDF mentioned the upkeep and restore schedule took under consideration present and future works: “So far as Civaux is anxious, the works are continuing in accordance with plan.”

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