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UPDATE 2-French regulator set to clear safety of EDF's Flamanville reactor vessel-report
June 7, 2017 / 8:52 AM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 2-French regulator set to clear safety of EDF's Flamanville reactor vessel-report

* ASN indicated approval in elements of report given to EDF

* EDF shares rise nearly 3 percent in early trade

* Preliminary report usually confirmed in final ruling

* Final ASN ruling due in September or early October (Adds comment by ASN in paragraph 5, EDF share price)

By Geert De Clercq

PARIS, June 7 (Reuters) - French nuclear regulator ASN is set to give safety clearance for the nuclear reactor vessel being built for French utility EDF at its Flamanville site, Le Figaro newspaper said on Wednesday.

The newspaper said the regulator had provided EDF with elements of a preliminary report that indicate the equipment meets the safety conditions for the reactor to start normally.

EDF’s shares closed up 2.2 percent at 9.518 euros.

The company declined to comment on the report.

An ASN spokeswoman said the investigation was continuing and that the ASN had not taken a decision.

She said a provisional ruling would be issued this summer, followed by a final decision in September.

Non-approval would have meant billions of euros in extra costs for EDF and jeopardised its planned takeover of nuclear engineering group Areva’s reactor business.

ASN has been examining weak spots in the reactor’s lid and base since the discovery in 2015 of an anomaly in carbon concentrations in the steel used.

Excess carbon can make the steel brittle and more prone to fracturing when exposed to shocks or quick temperature changes. The ASN had warned these flaws could potentially be serious.

A source familiar with the ASN’s investigation said the probe would probably show that the weak spots did not represent a major risk of cracking or explosion as they are not in the areas that are under the heaviest stress.

“I think the conclusion (of the ASN’s report) will be positive, although it may also contain a demand for more intense surveillance,” the source said, adding that the ASN might require more tests during the reactor’s routine major inspections each decade.

Le Figaro said that the ASN might require additional controls in the reactor’s first years of operation.

Several sources familiar with the situation said the ASN had not yet finalised its technical report on the Flamanville reactor, which is due at the end of June.

Once ready, the report will be reviewed by EDF, reactor maker Areva and a group of independent experts who will then issue a non-binding recommendation.

Based on this, the ASN is expected to publish a provisional ruling, which will be available for public consultation for at least a month. Because of the summer break, that process is expected to last until September.

The ASN is then likely to take a few more weeks to review the outcome of the consultation before it issues a final ruling in September or early October, experts say. (Reporting by Geert de Clercq; Editing by Dale Hudson, Greg Mahlich)

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