Tricastin 1: France’s first reactor authorised to reach 50 years of operation

For the first time, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) has approved the operation of a nuclear reactor beyond the age of 40. Tricastin 1 is the first reactor in France to reach 50 years of operation.

In 2021, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) had already taken a position on the generic phase of the fourth periodic review (VD4) of 900 MW reactors before initiating another phase of analysis, taking into account the specific features of each reactor. In August 2023, the ASN issued its opinion on the continued operation of unit no. 1 at Tricastin for a further ten years. The reactor, commissioned in 1980, is now authorised to operate for 50 years. As a reminder, reactors are authorised to operate in 10-year tranches with no maximum duration in France.

The Minister for Energy Transition emphasised the industrial success of the projects underway:

The ASN pointed out that “the safety improvements planned by EDF as part of this review were the subject of a public enquiry from 13 January 2022 to 14 February 2022, which concluded with a favourable opinion from the enquiry commission”. ASN considers that “the conclusions of the fourth periodic review of the reactor, the actions planned by EDF and those taken in response to the ASN decision on the generic phase of the review enable the objectives set for this periodic review to be achieved”.

Getting closer to the EPR safety level

The Grand Carénage programme aims to bring the safety level of the nuclear fleet closer to the highest safety standard, i.e. that of the EPR. It includes a wide range of operations, such as replacing steam generators and constructing additional backup water and electricity capacity. “The opinion issued by the ASN confirms the relevance of the Grand Carénage programme and our ability to carry out the work and modifications we have proposed to maintain our fleet of reactors at the highest level of safety,” said Cédric Lewandowski, EDF Group Executive Director in charge of the Nuclear and Thermal Plants Division.

Feedback from the Tricastin power plant

The Tricastin plant, which has four 900 MW reactors, was the first, in 2018, to inaugurate the Grand Carénage programme and the 40-yearly ten-yearly inspection. “Between 2018 and 2028, the plant has undergone and will continue to undergo its ten-yearly inspection almost continuously”, explains Marcelline Aubry, the site’s deputy technical director, in the latest Revue Générale Nucléaire. Feedback from the first unit has facilitated operations on subsequent units and will also benefit other nuclear power plants by making documentation and exchanges available. ■

Gaïc Le Gros (Sfen)

Photo © EDF-Fahl Robert