CCS, heat wave, pool, EPR cover… seven points to remember from the ASN’s wishes

On Monday, January 23, 2023, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) presented its new year’s greetings to the press. It was an opportunity to take stock of the year 2022 and to emphasize the challenges and points of vigilance to come. Bernard Doroszczuk, president of the ASN, stressed the importance of a long-term vision for the entire nuclear cycle.


1. 2022 assessment: nuclear safety and radiation protection at a satisfactory level

Bernard Doroszczuk, president of the ASN, emphasized that in 2022, nuclear safety and radiation protection had been maintained “at a satisfactory level. He also praised EDF’s decisions following the discovery of stress corrosion.” EDF has acted as the first responsible for safety,” he said. Nevertheless, he emphasized the “unprecedented risks.” He called for “better anticipation and global consideration of safety issues in the orientation debates on energy policy.”

2. France’s energy policy needs to be anticipated…

“It is necessary to have, in the next few years, the elements needed to justify, from the point of view of safety, the structural hypotheses that determine the nuclear component of energy policy,” the ASN stated. “These justifications should be provided 10 to 15 years in advance, i.e., within the next three to four years, to allow sufficient time to reach their conclusions. This is particularly the case for the operation of reactors up to and beyond 60 years of age.

3. …as well as adapting the fleet to climate change

The ASN has highlighted the heat wave events encountered in 2022 and recalled that for the first time since 2003, it had to authorize exemptions for thermal discharges into rivers. Given these phenomena, it considers that the 10-year time frame of the periodic review needs to be longer to assess long-term issues such as climate change. These issues must now be “integrated into the specific justification procedures of operators related to the continuation of long-term operation of facilities, such as that required for EDF reactors beyond 60 years of age,” with a vision that is both more global and territorial.

4. The PPE must be an opportunity to reflect on different fuel cycle scenarios

The ASN suggests that the next Multiannual Energy Plan (PPE 2023-2028) should be “an opportunity to reflect on and evaluate possible fuel cycle futures and associated waste, including the safety and radiation protection issues they raise,” using as a model the energy scenarios of the network operator RTE, entitled “Energy Futures 2050.

5. Anticipating the saturation of fuel storage pools

ASN also covered the saturation of the nuclear fuel storage pools at Orano La Hague. “We cannot guarantee that this saturation will not occur before 2034,” the ASN emphasized. This is why the ASN is studying several solutions: increasing the storage density at Orano La Hague, expanding the use of MOX, and temporary dry storage. Julien Collet, deputy director general of the ASN, believes that at least one of these solutions should be deployed by 2034.

6. Establishment of an observatory for the recovery and conditioning of waste and for dismantling

The ASN has emphasized the transparency of nuclear operators, citing several interventions by nuclear operators in the High Committee for Transparency and Information on Nuclear Safety (HCTISN) and also in local information commissions (CLI). In addition, as part of its control over the conduct of complex projects, the ASN draws up and presents in its report on the state of safety and radiation protection an “observatory on recovery and repackaging of waste (RCD) and dismantling .”The ASN has pointed out that dismantling operations for pressurized water reactors do not pose any difficulty. The complex operations concern, in particular, the dismantling of the first generation of UNNG (natural uranium graphite gas) reactors and the recovery and conditioning of old waste.

7. The schedule for replacing the reactor vessel cover is under discussion

The ASN said that Framatome had submitted a request at the end of December 2023 to extend the deadline for changing the Flamanville EPR reactor vessel cover. As a reminder, in 2017, it was agreed that this operation would be carried out during the first reactor shutdown, then scheduled for 2024. However, the schedule has been shifted, and the fuel loading has recently been moved to the first quarter of 2024. The request thus aims to adjust the schedule of the operation with that of the EPR so as not to shut down the reactor before the end of its first operating cycle. ■

Gaïc Le Gros (Sfen)

Photo ©ASN via Twitter