Following the discovery of additional cracks, EDF has been directed to inspect 200 nuclear pipe weldings.

The French nuclear safety authority, ASN, has mandated that EDF carry out inspections on approximately 200 pipe weldings throughout its 56-reactor fleet.

This comes after the discovery of three new cracks, with one being a significant corrosion-related crack on the Penly 1 reactor in Normandy, which the regulator believes was caused by substandard welding. The other two cracks were found on the Penly 2 reactor and the Cattenom 3 reactor in Moselle and were disclosed on Thursday.

When asked to respond to the criticism from ASN, an EDF spokesperson declined to comment. However, they did explain that the two newly discovered cracks were a result of “thermal fatigue”, which occurs when extremely hot and cold water meet inside pipes. This causes the steel to expand, contract and become more brittle over time. The spokesperson also mentioned that EDF regularly inspects pipes using ultrasound technology to detect this issue during maintenance.

Meanwhile, France and Britain have announced a new energy partnership that includes plans to enhance cooperation on nuclear power. This includes joint efforts on the construction of power stations, innovation, and safety. These developments are noteworthy as they occur against the backdrop of the recent defects and regulatory scrutiny on EDF’s nuclear reactors.

During a bilateral summit, neither the French President, Emmanuel Macron, nor the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, made any reference to the recent setbacks faced by the nuclear operator. Sunak commended EDF for their commendable work in securing Britain’s nuclear power supply, while Macron remained silent on the matter.

EDF is currently constructing Sizewell C, a new nuclear plant in Britain, which has been plagued by both cost overruns and construction delays. Additionally, the company is also working on a second plant, Hinkley Point C.

The utility’s Penly 2 and Cattenom 3 in France are part of a group of 16 reactors flagged by EDF as being susceptible to corrosion-related cracks due to a design flaw and prioritised for checks in its inspection and maintenance plan.

That plan is now being updated to accommodate the additional check of 200 weldings, and will be published “in coming days”, EDF has said.

European forward-curve power prices rose sharply on Friday following the announcement of new cracks, after French nuclear output in 2022 fell to a 34-year low while EDF scrambled to fix stress corrosion issues at several sites.

“Some market participants may be worried that the issues with corrosion are trickier than first anticipated and that EDF will struggle both long- and short-term to fix it and bring generation back to pre-2022 levels,” Rystad analyst Fabian Ronningen said.

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