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Cattenom plans to open reactor despite traces of corrosion

Cattenom plans to open reactor despite traces of corrosion

by Gabrielle ANTAR 2 min. 27.10.2022
Discussions are underway to reopen reactor 1, EDF says, although work to repair corrosion will not take place until next year
The Cattenom nuclear plant has long been a source of tension between Luxembourg and France
The Cattenom nuclear plant has long been a source of tension between Luxembourg and France
Photo credit: Guy Jallay

A reactor with confirmed traces of corrosion at the Cattenom nuclear plant - right on Luxembourg's doorstep - is to be restarted, operator Electricité de France (EDF) has said, despite the fact that repair work will not begin until next year. 

Checks revealed corrosion on Unit 1, which was taken offline in June for maintenance work, EDF said in a statement on its website on Tuesday. 

An examination of the reactor "revealed two slight traces of stress corrosion on around fifteen pipes checked", EDF said. 

Despite the confirmed presence of corrosion, discussions with France's Nuclear Safety Authority are underway, EDF said, to "begin restart operations soon and schedule repairs during a shutdown in 2023". 

Three of the plant's four reactors are currently offline, with "indications of stress corrosion" also present on Unit 3, which has been idle since March.

Checks are still ongoing on units 3 and 4, EDF said, which did not mention when the two reactors might restart.

Unit 2, the only reactor in operation at the plant at present, only came back online in July after EDF resolved issues with a ventilation system, meaning that for a period earlier this year the site had completely stopped functioning.

EDF hopes to restart two of the reactors which are currently idle before the end of the year, Jérôme Le Saint, the director of the site, said during a press briefing at the start of October. Le Saint mentioned “mid-November” as a potential date for their return to service.

Suspected corrosion has required the French energy giant to halt work at more than 50 reactors across the country, to enable lengthy checks and repairs just at a time that energy prices are soaring because of the war in Ukraine.  

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace hit out at the planned reopening of Unit 1 at Cattenom before the repair work is completed, describing the decision as "irresponsible and scandalous" in a tweet on Tuesday.

The latest announcement by EDF is also likely to spark alarm within Luxembourg's government, which has been seeking answers after a series of stoppages and minor incidents in recent years. The government raised concerns in a letter to the company in April after EDF found corrosion in reactor 3.

Luxembourg and Germany - another ardent opponent of nuclear energy - have long called for the closure of Cattenom, a movement that gained momentum after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.

[Additional reporting by Pascal Mittelberger]

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