The French Ambassador to India, Jerome Bonnafont, writes:
In the article, Faulty design in Areva’s reactor, published on November 7th, 2009, The Hindu has reported information derived from a joint statement issued by the Nuclear Safety Authorities from Finland, France and the United Kingdom on the safety of the French EPR reactor. Some conclusions were expressed regarding potential consequences on ongoing and planned reactor construction projects in France and other countries.
I shall not make any comment on the joint declaration issued on November 2nd, 2009, by the three Safety Authorities. As far as France is concerned, the French Nuclear Safety Authority, ASN, is a fully independent administrative body established in 2006 under French law, which enables it to ensure the highest level of nuclear safety of French nuclear installations.
I would, however, like to emphasise on the following points:
The EPR is an evolutionary reactor of the third generation, which complies with the highest safety and security standards. It is currently under construction in France, Finland and China, and it adheres to the French policy of a responsible global development of civil nuclear energy.
It is a fact that Nuclear Safety Authorities from France, Finland and the United Kingdom have engaged for several years in a cooperation with the aim to achieve greater efficiency and optimisation of their means. They have worked collectively, in the frame of the EPR certification process in each country. In this context, they have raised common issues related to instrumentation and control of the reactor, which is a usual step in the process of construction authorisation and reactor certification. Specifically, in order to warranty a safe behaviour of the reactor, they request that full independence between the safety system used in accidental conditions and the system used in normal conditions be demonstrated, or otherwise technical adjustments should be accordingly proposed.
This is a permanent and fully transparent dialogue involving the safety authorities, operators and reactor designers, which aims to achieve collectively the highest level of nuclear safety for the EPR. At no point of time have the three Nuclear Safety Authorities questioned the overall and intrinsic safety of any of the technical choices for the EPR reactor.
Operators in the three respective countries and the reactor designer AREVA have been working for several months in order to propose the most robust solutions which will soon be reviewed by the Nuclear Safety Authorities. Transparency and nuclear safety are the priorities leading the French policy for responsible recourse to civil nuclear energy. The ongoing dialogue between ASN and the French utility and reactor designer will eventually be fully beneficial to the Indian project of building up to six EPR reactors at Jaitapur in Maharashtra.