EDF halts Cruas nuclear reactors for tests after earthquake

PARIS (Reuters) - French utility EDF said on Monday it had temporarily stopped operating reactors 2, 3 and 4 of its Cruas nuclear plant in the Ardeche region, to carry out additional checks after the area was hit by an earthquake earlier in the day.

FILE PHOTO: A logo of French electric company EDF is seen at an office building in La Defense business district in Courbevoie near Paris, France, October 12, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

“Initial inspections at Cruas-Meysse nuclear power plant have not highlighted any apparent damage. However, vibration was recorded requiring additional preventive testing,” EDF said in a statement.

Reactor 1 of the Cruas plant had already been shut down for scheduled maintenance.

“A sensor picked up the vibration during the earthquake. This necessitated the gradual halt of the reactors to carry out further checks,” a spokesman for EDF said.

He added that reactors would be restarted after the checks have been completed and approved by French nuclear safety authority ASN.

Four people were injured in Monday’s earthquake, which caused light damage to buildings in the area.

ASN said in a separate statement that it had asked EDF to verify whether the magnitude of earthquake - recorded at 5.1 by France’s National Seismic Surveillance Network - was above the threshold that would require a halt for further checks.

It said that while this was not the case of the Tricastin nuclear plant, which is further from the epicentre of the earthquake, at Cruas the limit was reached, pushing EDF to stop reactors at the site.

“ASN will examine the conditions under which these reactors can restart,” the nuclear watchdog said in the statement.

Halting the reactors removed around 2,700 megawatts of French power generation capacity. The Cruas reactors have a capacity of around 900 MW each.

Reactor number 1 has been offline since Sept. 7 for planned maintenance and it is expected to restart on Dec. 1.

French electricity consumption is expected to jump by around 9.2 gigawatts on Tuesday, after the Armistice Day bank holiday on Monday.

Reporting by Bate Felix, Editing by Sarah White