May 27, 2008 / 3:50 PM / 11 years ago

French nuke body partly halts work on new reactor

PARIS, May 27 (Reuters) - French utility giant EDF (EDF.PA) partly suspended the construction of its new-generation nuclear reactor in Flamanville, following an order from the French nuclear safety authority (ASN), the body said on Tuesday.

ASN’s order issued on May 21 concerned the pouring of concrete at the building site of the 1,650-megawatt new generation reactor that EDF started to construct in Dec. 2007.

“The ASN has observed, since the beginning of the works, a number of irregularities on the building site,” said Thomas Houdre, head of the body’s northwest branch.

“On a technical level, those irregularities do not pose a threat to the quality of the construction but there is a lack of rigour in the execution of the works,” Houdre said.

The irregularities have been dealt with, the ASN said, but the body has now asked EDF to reinforce the surveillance and the control of its subcontractors.

EDF said it was taking into account ASN’s demands to improve the organisation of the works.

“The schedule is on time. We are right at the beginning of construction that will last 54 months,” said Bernard Salha, head of nuclear engineering works at EDF.

Work at Flamanville in northwest France is expected to last for another four and a half years with the 3.6 billion euros plant scheduled to start production in 2012.

“It is by far too early to mention at this stage any potential delay in the final delivery of our work,” Salha added.

France is Europe’s top producer of nuclear power with 80 percent of its electricity nuclear-generated. The Flamanville nuclear reactor will be EDF’s 59th.

EDF plans to add around 6,000 megawatts of power capacity in France by 2012, split between 1,650 MW of nuclear power and 4,000 MW in thermal power. (Reporting by Benjamin Mallet and Muriel Boselli; )

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