Belgian nuclear regulator plans Doel safety meeting
London, 10 August (Argus) — Belgian nuclear regulator AFCN has called a meeting of national nuclear watchdogs and nuclear experts in Brussels on 16 August to discuss safety issues raised by the discovery of potential cracks on the reactor vessel of Belgium's Doel 3 nuclear unit.
The 1,003MW Doel 3 must stay off line until its operator, French utility GDF Suez's Belgian subsidiary Electrabel, can prove that the multiple defects discovered following the first use of ultrasonic inspection on the unit do not jeopardise the reactor's integrity.
It would not be possible to repair the reactor vessel, and a reactor vessel has never been replaced, according to AFCN, which does not rule out permanent closure of the unit. Electrabel is carrying out tests on the Doel unit and is expected to report back to the regulator before the end of August.
Now defunct Dutch manufacturer Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij (RDM) supplied the reactor vessel for Doel, which first went on line in 1982. There are 22 nuclear units worldwide with key components supplied by RDM, and AFCN has warned national watchdogs of countries with reactors supplied by RDM that similar issues may be discovered on these reactor vessels.
RDM supplied the reactor for Belgium's 1,008MW Tihange 2, which came on line in 1983. The unit will go off line for ultrasonic inspection of the reactor vessel on the 17 August and is forecast by Electrabel to return to power on 10 October.
Swedish state-controlled utility Vattenfall's 866MW Ringhals 2 in Sweden also has an RDM reactor vessel. There are cracks on the reactor pressure vessel of the unit but the defects, in their present form, do not negatively affect the safety of the unit, said the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority.
RDM supplied two nuclear units in Spain — Nuclenor's 466MW Santa Maria de Garona and Iberdrola's 1,092MW Cofrentes. Spanish nuclear regulator CSN is carrying out tests ahead of the 16 August meeting in Brussels, but the plants are continuing to operate at full capacity.
Swiss utility BKW's 373MW Muhleberg reactor in Switzerland was also supplied by RDM. “We are currently in the process of gathering the relevant information, which we will submit to the Swiss nuclear watchdog ENSI as required,” BKW said. “We are still reviewing the situation, which has no immediate impact on the operation of the plant.”
Switzerland's 1,190MW Leibstadt is on "a list of potentially affected nuclear plants", ENSI said, but could not confirm whether the unit was supplied by RDM.
Germany's Siemens supplied the reactor vessel for the Netherlands' 485MW Borssele, but RDM was responsible for welding on the vessel in the 1970s. The Dutch nuclear watchdog does not plan to conduct additional tests on Borssele.
RDM supplied none of France's 59 nuclear units. And none of the German nuclear units that remain in operation were supplied by the Dutch manufacturer, according to the German environment ministry.
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