French nuclear plants told to invest in safety

FRANCE must invest billions of euros to improve the safety systems of its nuclear facilities so they can withstand the kind of extreme shocks that triggered the worst nuclear accident in 25 years at Fukushima, the nuclear watchdog ASN said yesterday.

French nuclear power operator EDF will need to install flood-proof diesel generators and bunkered remote back-up control rooms at its 19 plants across the country or face shutting down some of its 58 reactors, the ASN added.

State-controlled EDF will also have to set up, before the end of 2012, an emergency nuclear task force to intervene on the site of an accident within less than 24 hours.

“We believe that facilities can only continue to operate if investments are made in the timeframe we’re setting, otherwise we may have to suspend some operations,” ASN president Andre-Claude Lacoste said.

The ASN handed the French government the conclusions of a safety assessment of nuclear facilities nearly 10 months after an earthquake and tsunami crippled Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant

France has carried out “stress tests”on its nuclear facilities as part of an EU-wide move to assess the resistance of European nuclear power plants to extreme cases of natural catastrophe or bad weather.

The EU is due to publish its conclusions in June.