SAFETY CONCERNS: EDF has detected another defect due to a phenomenon known as thermal fatigue on a weld of an emergency pipe in two reactors
After the discovery of a crack in Penly 1, disappointments follow. EDF detected on Thursday another “significant” defect due to a phenomenon known as thermal fatigue on a weld of an emergency pipe in two reactors, according to the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN ).
One more complication could upset the maintenance schedule for French power plants. Checks “made it possible to detect the presence of thermal fatigue cracks”, on emergency pipes “considered as sensitive to stress corrosion” in reactor 2 of the Penly nuclear power plant (Seine-Maritime) and reactor 3 from the Cattenom power plant (Moselle), according to an ASN note.
A crack of “significant depth”
At Penly 2, the crack is 57 mm long, representing less than 10% of the circumference, for a maximum depth of 12 mm. “It’s not trivial, it’s a significant depth,” said AFP Julien Collet, deputy director general of ASN. The other crack was spotted at Cattenom 3, 165 mm long (representing about a quarter of the circumference) for a maximum depth of 4 mm.
This discovery comes two days after the revelation of a crack of a size never before seen in the Penly 1 reactor, on an emergency pipe used to flood the reactor with water in the event of a nuclear accident. This crack “extends over 155 mm, or approximately a quarter of the circumference of the pipe, and its maximum depth is 23 mm, for a pipe thickness of 27 mm”, detailed the ASN.
The so-called “stress corrosion” phenomenon has been identified since October 2021 on several sites but generated smaller cracks and in other areas of these pipes. EDF must submit a revised control strategy to ASN in the coming days. In total, the electrician will have to check 200 welds throughout its fleet, according to ASN. What potentially causes prolonged shutdowns of reactors and raises uncertainties about nuclear production in 2023?