“You cannot start a reactor if you don't have full confidence of local people”
Chairperson of the Atomic Energy Commission of France Bernard Bigot on Monday said the controversial European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) technology was re-evaluated after the Fukushima disaster and it had got the green signal from the nuclear safety regulatory bodies of his country, the United Kingdom and Finland.
The three regulatory bodies had expressed reservations about the design aspects of the EPR. This happened due to greater transparency, which was the top priority, and now the three regulators had given the go-ahead for the technology, Dr. Bigot told journalists.
The design of a nuclear reactor had to cope with the local situation and various stress factors, he noted.
Asked about a paper in the latest issue of Current Science that has not ruled out an earthquake of the magnitude of 6 in the Jaitapur area, he said data of the last 1000 years had to be evaluated and if the intensity that may take place is 6, then the design would have to factor in the possibility of a quake that is 30 per cent more, that is or 7.5 on.
Even in the case of Fukushima, a large margin of safety was taken into consideration 40 years ago at the time of building the reactors.
Dr. Bigot said he was not aware of any lack of transparency on Areva's part and all questions were readily answered.
“You cannot start a nuclear reactor if you don't have the full confidence of the local people. “It will take time to counter and explain many things but people have to be taken into confidence first,” he said.
Dr. Bigot had detailed discussions with his Indian counterpart, Srikumar Banerjee, and reviewed the civil nuclear bilateral cooperation between the two countries. He said the EPR being built in Flamanville in France would produce electricity in the autumn of 2014 and there was a 20-month delay with new safety precautions being built in.
By the time the reactors at Jaitapur were built, Flamanville would be up and about. Fukushima showed the world that extreme weather conditions could appear and this forced all the 58 nuclear power reactors in France to undergo a stress test procedure. The Nuclear Safety Authority was reviewing this report while a separate committee had given its own analysis.
The EPR was built to face extreme conditions and the regulatory bodies did not seek any change in the design. All the key areas were fulfilled in the design and no major change was called for. The final call on this would be taken in January and it would be shared with India's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.
“The good news is that the French designers had taken into account various stress factors and the basic core of the EPR is the same. It is currently the most advanced nuclear reactor,” he stressed.
With regard to the delay in the EPR reactor being built in Finland, he said he visited the site recently and the main issues related to the fact that it was a turnkey contract and involved over 20,000 different pieces of contracts, which all had to be validated, and took eleven months on an average. It was mainly a dispute between the buyer and suppliers and the doubling of the cost, including the arbitration costs, as well.
The arbitration process is expected to be on track next month and the buyer now was quite satisfied. One more reactor was being planned in Finland, he pointed out.