ASN Report on the state of nuclear safety and radiation protection in France in 2021

Published on 07/07/2022

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ASN Report on the state of nuclear safety and radiation protection in France in 2021

The Nuclear Safety Authority presents its report on the state of nuclear safety and radiation protection in France in 2021.

This report is required by Article L. 592-31 of the Environment Code.

It was submitted to the President of the Republic,  the Prime Minister and the Presidents of the Senate and the National Assembly and  transmitted to the Parliamentary Office for the  Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices, pursuant to the above-mentioned Article.

« Nuclear safety concerns must lie at the heart of energy policy decisions »

From left to right: Jean‑Luc LACHAUME, Commissioner; Laure TOURJANSKY, Commissioner; Bernard DOROSZCZUK, Chairman; Géraldine PINA JOMIR, Commissioner; Sylvie CADET‑MERCIER, Commissioner.
In 2021, the safety of nuclear facilities and radiation protection in the medical, industrial and radioactive substances transport sectors remained at a satisfactory level, in line with the level observed in 2020.
What are most striking about 2021, in particular its second part, are the industrial vulnerabilities affecting all nuclear facilities and the debate concerning energy policy choices and the position of nuclear power in these choices.

On these subjects, ASN has four key messages:

  1. The French electricity system today faces an unprecedented two-fold vulnerability in availability, affecting both the “fuel cycle” facilities and the fleet of nuclear power reactors.
    This vulnerability is compounded by the unexpected discovery of a stress corrosion phenomenon on several EDF reactors, which is a serious event from the viewpoint of safety.
    These situations and vulnerabilities, most of which stem from the lack of margins and inadequate anticipation, must serve as lessons for the entire nuclear sector and the public authorities.
  2. Nuclear safety concerns must lie at the heart of energy policy decisions, in the same way as concerns regarding the decarbonisation of electricity production by 2050.
    In the coming 5 years, EDF will have to examine and individually justify the ability of the older reactors to continue to operate beyond 50, or even 60 years, so that lessons can be learned as soon as possible regarding any provision to be made for additional production capacity.
    At the same time, given the foreseeable growth in the electrif ication of usages, and given the need to maintain margins in the electricity system, the public authorities will have to carefully weigh its decision to shut down an additional 12 reactors by 2035, except of course for safety reasons.
    Finally, by the end of the decade at the latest, the Government will have to decide on whether or not to continue with the reprocessing of spent fuel after the 2040 time-frame, in order to anticipate the consequences, with regard either to the refurbishment of the existing facilities, or alternative solutions to be adopted for spent fuel management.
  3. The prospect of an energy policy comprising a long-term nuclear component must be accompanied by an exemplary policy for the management of waste and legacy nuclear facilities.
    A policy such as this implies that decisions be taken before the end of the next National Radioactive Materials and Waste Management Plan (PNGMDR), so that operational management solutions are available for all types of waste within the coming 15 to 20 years, and so that the nuclear licensees are more committed to meeting the specified deadlines for legacy nuclear waste retrieval and conditioning projects for which they are responsible.
  4. ASN reaffirms that the new energy policies perspectives, whatever they are, imply a considerable industrial effort, in order to tackle the industrial and safety challenges.
    If nuclear power is among the choices made to ensure a decarbonised energy mix by the 2050 time-frame, the nuclear sector will have to implement its own “Marshall Plan” to make this perspective industrially sustainable and have the skills it needs to tackle the scale and duration of the projects concerned.
    Quality and rigour in the design, manufacture and oversight of nuclear facilities, which were not up to the required level in the latest major nuclear projects conducted in France, constitute the f irst level of “Defence in Depth” in terms of safety.

Date of last update : 26/10/2022