(Adds detail from ASN letters, EDF replies)
PARIS, March 31 French nuclear regulator ASN on
Friday published extracts of a decade's worth of correspondence
in which it raised safety concerns about Areva's nuclear foundry
Commercial production at the foundry has been halted since
late 2016 after ASN discovered manufacturing flaws and forgery
of tracking documentation. Two of state utility EDF's
reactors have been halted for months following the discovery of
problems with components manufactured by Creusot Forge.
The publication follows a report by radio station France
Inter which said EDF and its supplier Areva had
allowed Creusot Forge to manufacture the base and cover for the
reactor vessel in Flamanville, despite ASN's warnings.
In the first of several documents published by ASN on
Friday, a Dec. 12, 2005, letter to EDF highlights manufacturing
problems at the foundry which the regulator said raised
questions about the quality of its work. It also urged EDF to
closely monitor safety rules there. Some of that documentation
had been published earlier on ASN's website.
Despite several more warnings in following years, Creusot
Forge manufactured the Flamanville parts, which were installed
in the reactor in 2014. In 2015, Areva finally discovered that
there was a problem with excessive carbon concentrations in the
components. Such concentrations can weaken steel.
The ASN now needs to rule on whether the reactor - which is
due to be completed late next year - could function safely
despite these weak spots. The ASN on Friday said it would rule
on the issue "this summer", pushing back an earlier deadline for
a ruling by mid-2007.
EDF head of new nuclear Xavier Ursat told Reuters on
Thursday he was confident ASN would declare the Flamanville
Getting the ASN's green light is crucial for EDF, because a
negative ruling would mean years of more delay and billions of
extra costs for the reactor. It would also scupper EDF's planned
takeover of the reactor unit of Areva, as a clean bill of health
for Flamanville 3 was a condition for the deal.
Areva is being restructured and recapitalised by the French
state after years of losses wiped out its equity.
Following an early 2006 visit to the foundry, the regulator
described numerous anomalies at the Creusot site and again urged
EDF and Areva to better oversee the plant.
EDF answered in August 2006 that corrective action had been
taken, but ASN said a month later that EDF's responses were not
ASN said that in 2012 its director had spoken to Creusot
Forge staff about the need to improve its safety culture.
Following a new inspection in October 2012, the regulator again
warned in writing about quality issues and the need for the
foundry to update its skills.
Two years lager, Areva sent its first warnings to the ASN
about unsatisfactory resilience tests on the Flamanville
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Andrew Callus and