Framatome reached a major milestone in its review of Le Creusot Forge’s manufacturing records, finishing the task of identifying and characterizing deviations in all of the records for forgings installed on nuclear reactors in France.
A total of 1,925 records were analyzed. At this stage of the process, no serviceability issues have been identified in components delivered to EDF—the operator of France’s 58 nuclear reactors.
Problems at Le Creusot came to light during an audit begun in 2015 by the country’s Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) after defects were discovered in the Flamanville EPR reactor vessel head. That audit uncovered enough problems that ASN ordered Areva, now Framatome, to review its records going back to 2004 when manufacturing for the EPR began. In March 2016, Areva confessed to “irregularities in the manufacturing checks” on about 400 parts produced after 1965, about 50 of which were still in service in France.
ASN said that the irregularities included “inconsistencies, modifications or omissions in the production files, concerning manufacturing parameters or test results.” The problems didn’t end there, however. As investigations continued in 2016, carbon segregation problems were found in components from both Le Creusot and the Kitakyushu-based Japan Casting & Forging Corp. plant. As a result, ASN ordered preventative measures be taken to ensure public safety, and by late October 2016, 20 EDF reactors had been taken offline for further examination. More investigations would follow with some reactors being returned to operation while others were taken out of service.
In a July 18 press release, Framatome said summary reports for all French reactors would be submitted to ASN by September 2018. To date, ASN has reviewed some of the already-submitted reports and given its consent for 31 reactors to operate.
Following the implementation of an improvement plan, the Le Creusot site is now said to be ready to provide the main forged components for nuclear new build projects internationally and for replacement components to equip French reactors. Some of the improvements made at the site include a project to equip the facility with digital applications to make data acquisition more reliable and improve traceability during forging operations, and a research and development program to advance new technical forging processes.
To accompany the ramp up in production, the Le Creusot site recruited 28 employees in 2017 and plans to add 40 people this year. The company is investing €11 million in a total of 35 projects covering all sectors of the plant, including the renewal of machining units, the improvement of quenching process equipment, and reliability improvements to the 11,300 metric ton press.
“Framatome’s ambition is to confirm the status of the Le Creusot site as a world benchmark for forgings specifically devoted to serving nuclear industry needs. The work we have accomplished at the Le Creusot site on overhauling the quality assurance system is raising trust levels among our customers and nuclear safety authorities. The Le Creusot site is working on projects of prime importance for the nuclear industry, and this is thanks to the ongoing mobilization of the teams—who I thank for their diligent commitment to safety, quality and the satisfaction of our customers,” said David Emond, executive vice president of Framatome’s Components business unit.
—Aaron Larson, executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)