[Video] Flamanville’s EPR begins its final rehearsal before commissioning

The Flamanville EPR is now on the launch pad. With all the welding remediation completed, the reactor is entering the crucial phase of overall requalification testing. For about ten weeks, the machine will be tested in great detail before receiving its fuel in the spring, with the approval of the ASN.

“The time has come to take a fresh look at the Flamanville EPR. This plant symbolises a turning point in France’s nuclear energy history”. In a message on Linkedin, Xavier Ursat, Group Senior Executive Vice-President, New Nuclear Projects and Engineering at EDF, marks this new milestone for the future French reactor. The overall requalification tests (ERE) have just begun. On its X account, EDF describes this stage as “the beginning of the final dress rehearsal before the EPR starts up.”

In concrete terms, Alain Morvan, Director of the Flamanville 3 project, describes the upcoming steps to test 155 systems: “We started filling the primary circuit about fifteen days ago to check that the reactor’s control systems and safety injection system are working properly. After evacuation, the main primary circuit was pressurised, enabling the four reactor coolant pump (GMPP) to start up.

Following this, once the steam generators (GV) have been recommissioned, the main primary circuit will continue to increase in pressure and temperature. The pressuriser will be commissioned to establish and maintain a pressure of 155 bars. The water temperature will also rise, thanks to the thermal input from the 4 GMPPs, until it reaches 303 degrees. The EPR’s “hot shutdown” operating conditions will then be tested.

The secondary circuit was also filled with water. The water in the secondary circuit will be heated and transformed into steam through heat exchange at the GV. For the EREs, the steam produced will be directed to the condenser. This device, made up of 92,000 tubes through which cold water from the sea circulates, will convert the steam back into water. Moreover, thanks to the steam produced in the GVs, a turbine start-up test will be conducted during this phase to reach 1500 revolutions/minute, the normal operating speed.”

New expertise in welding

The video published by Xavier Ursat explains that the launch was made possible by the successful remediation of the welds of the secondary circuit: “Several hundred welds, some of them very complex, have been rebuilt (…) These operations have allowed inventing of new working methods, developing ultra-sophisticated robots and rebuilding cutting-edge welding expertise in France”. The reworking of some of the welds required a very high level of technical expertise and significantly pushed back the project schedule.

The Flamanville EPR is scheduled to come on stream in 2024. The French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) has just completed its public consultation on the commissioning of the reactor. It now states: “The ASN will take a position when the results of the reactor tests, designed to check that the installation complies with its safety demonstration, are satisfactory, the final justifications concerning the safety of the installation have been provided, and the operator is ready to begin start-up operations. This authorisation is necessary for the fuel to be loaded into the reactor, which EDF plans to do in the first quarter of 2024. ■