Although AREVA recently disclosed that 17 U.S. nuclear power plant units have installed components that were forged at the Le Creusot facility in France—a forge that has been under scrutiny due to questionable quality assurance documentation and carbon segregation irregularities in some parts manufactured at the site—the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) does not consider the situation an immediate safety concern.
“We are confident at this time that there are no safety concerns for U.S. nuclear power plants raised by the investigations in France,” David McIntyre, public affairs officer for the NRC, wrote in a blog post about the revelation.
“Our confidence is based on the U.S. material qualification process, preliminary structural evaluations of reactor components under scrutiny in France, U.S. material aging-management programs, our participation in a multinational inspection of Creusot Forge, and information supplied by AREVA about the documentation anomalies. Also, the components supplied to U.S. plants have performed well and inspections during their operating life have revealed no safety issues,” he continued.
The components in question are mostly replacement reactor vessel heads, replacement steam generator components, and pressurizers (Figure 1).
1. Potentially problematic parts. This list shows the 17 U.S. units with Creusot-made components. Source: NRC
POWER first reported in detail on the French investigation of the Le Creusot Forge in an online story posted on November 1. The article was also published in the December issue of the magazine (see “France’s Nuclear Storm: Many Power Plants Down Due to Quality Concerns”). At the time, 20 of France’s 58 reactors were offline as part of the investigation.
Much of the required analysis has since been completed and several units have returned to service. However, questions remain, and a final determination on long-term effects has not been released.
“We are not taking this issue lightly,” wrote McIntyre. “As the investigation continues, we remain alert to any indication that the documentation irregularities at Creusot Forge might call into question the safety of these components and U.S. nuclear plants.”
The French Nuclear Safety Authority is expected to issue a report detailing findings from the carbon segregation investigation in the next several weeks, while AREVA is expected to complete its evaluation of Creusot Forge’s documentation process by the end of June.
—Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)