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NEW DELHI, February 9, 2012

R. Ramachandran

There will be no additional cost to the EPR 1650 MWe Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR), a Generation III+ nuclear reactor developed by Areva of France, in complying with the additional safety requirements recommended by the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) in its Complementary Safety Assessment (CSA) report submitted in January. This was stated by Dr. Bernard Bigot, Chairman of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), at a press briefing on Wednesday.

The proposed NPP at Jaitapur in Maharashtra will be based on the EPR 1650 MWe nuclear reactor systems. The NPP at Jaitapur will be essentially the same as the EPR being built at Flamanville 3 in France. An application for authorisation of a similar reactor at Penly in France is pending.

These additional safety requirements recommended by ASN were based on the new ‘European Stress Tests’ on French nuclear power plants (NPPs) in the post-Fukushima context. These tests had been recommended by the European Council in March 2011. According to the European Nuclear Safety Regulatory Group (ENSREG), ‘stress test’ is a “targeted reassessment of the safety margins of NPPs in the light of events which occurred at Fukushima: extreme natural events challenging the plant safety functions and leading to a severe accident.”

The briefing by Dr. Bigot was following his presentation of the CSA to the Indian authorities and his interaction with officials of the Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) in New Delhi, including Dr. Srikumar Banerjee, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).

This CSA report of ASN will be studied by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) before the final contract with Areva is inked by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL), the operator of the NPP.

“The EPR design is well suited to cope with the extra safety requirements and even in the worst case [scenario] the reactor will be safe,” Dr. Bigot said.

“For the Flamanville 3 EPR reactor,” says the CSA report, “ASN considers that the safety objectives and the strengthened design of this type of reactor already offer improved protection against severe accidents. Its design in particular takes account of and incorporates measures to deal with the possibility of accidents with a core melt and combinations of hazards. Furthermore, all the systems necessary for the management of accident situations, even severe, are designed to remain operational for an earthquake or a flood as defined in the baseline safety requirements.”

While submitting its report, ASN proposed a ‘hard-core’ of material and organisational measures for each facility, specifications and procedures, which have to be met by June 30. The ‘hard-core’ will comprise:

— crisis management premises and equipment;

— means of communication and alert;

— technical and environmental monitoring instrumentation;

— operational dosimetry resources for workers;

— strengthened equipment including an electricity generating set and water supply for emergency cooling down of each reactor.

These measures, according to an ASN statement of January 3, “will ensure ultimate protection of the facilities with three objectives:

— prevent a severe accident or limit its progression;

— limit large scale releases in the event of an accident which it was not possible to control;

— enable the licensee to perform its emergency management duties.”

“The design of the EPR reactor,” says the CSA report, “which already offers improved protection against severe accidents, should make it easier to create its ‘hard-core’.” According to the report, the French utility company Électricité de France (EDF) will be identifying the existing or additional systems to be included in the ‘hard-core,’ in particular to control the pressure in the containment in the event of a severe accident.

Towards this, ASN has recommended the creation and deployment of the ‘Nuclear Rapid Response Force (FARN)’, as proposed by EDF, by the end of 2012. FARN will comprise specialist crews and equipment able to take over from the personnel on a site affected by an accident and deploy additional emergency response resources in less than 24 hours, with operations beginning on the site within 12 hours. Dr. Bigot noted that Fukushima was not prepared in this respect and suffered from a lack of trained personnel on site. Finding appropriate workforce for FARN may itself pose a problem, he observed.