Fire at French nuclear power plant takes reactor off grid, operator says no associated nuclear risk

PARIS (Reuters) - A fire caused an explosion at the Flamanville nuclear power plant in northwest France on Thursday, leading the operator EDF to take a reactor offline, but there was no risk to the reactor, EDF and a local official said on Thursday.

The state-owned firm said a fire in the turbine hall caused the explosion in a “non-nuclear” part of the power station.

The fire was brought under control, and reactor number 1 was disconnected from the grid, EDF said, adding that although there were no injuries, five people had been affected by fumes.

The Flamanville 1 and 2 reactors, which each have a electricity generating capacity of 1,300 megawatts, were built in the 1980s.


Industry experts said fires of this nature happened fairly frequently and that there was unlikely to have been any release of radiation, but Flamanville is at the centre of a deep controversy in France over the future of its nuclear industry and the degree to which its engineering can be trusted.

Atomic power accounted for over 70 percent of the country’s power generation in 2015, and reactors made by another state-controlled firm, Areva, have been installed around the world.

Areva and EDF are building the prototype for a new generation of reactor at the Flamanville site on the Normandy coast in the hope it can be the first of many and extricate them from financial difficulty.

Areva is close to bankruptcy due to a lack of orders, disputes with existing customers, and an investigation into document falsification and is undergoing a restructuring that involves EDF buying a part of the business.

Reporting by Marine Pennetier, Andrew Callus and Bate Felix; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Greg Mahlich