The Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) has just announced its decision that it is totally safe to restart the nuclear power plants Doel 3 and Tihange 2, unavailable since March, 26, 2014. ENGIE, via its subsidiary Electrabel, has immediately decided to prepare the restart of the two plants, now planned on December 15, 2015.
On July 17, 2015, after nearly 18 months of investigation, Electrabel submitted the first version of its final reports (safety cases) to the FANC. Definitive versions of these reports were submitted on October 28, and they very meticulously set out the findings of the substantiated research carried out by a multidisciplinary team comprising dozens of internal and external experts, both in Belgium and abroad.
The conclusions reached after inspections demonstrate the structural integrity of the reactor vessel under any circumstances, both during normal operation and in the event of an accident.
The flaws detected in the reactor vessels are hydrogen flakes that were produced during the forging process. In other words, they have been there from the outset. The hydrogen flakes are quasi-laminar, lying parallel to the interior wall of the reactor vessel. As a result, they are marginally subjected to mechanical stresses and have no negative impact on the reactor vessel’s structural integrity.
All calculations and analyses were based on highly conservative hypotheses. Electrabel can thus confirm that the conclusions presented above bear witness to the vessel’s structural integrity, with very wide safety margins. As a result, Electrabel is convinced that it is totally safe to restart Doel 3 and Tihange 2. It has also been decided that after the next fuel cycle the reactor vessels of Doel 3 and Tihange 2 will undergo a follow-up inspection using the qualified ultrasonic method.
The FANC decision stresses the work done and expertise of Electrabel which has represented tens of thousands of hours of investigative work and more than 1,500 material tests.
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