David Cameron’s £16 billion plan to buy a new generation of French-made nuclear reactors is fresh turmoil following an official warning that a key component could be unsafe.
The British Office for Nuclear Regulation has been told by its French counterpart that tests have revealed a ‘serious anomaly’ with a similar reactor under construction in northern France.
The French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) said the steel lid and bottom of the reactor vessel appeared to be weak, and risked cracking up.
Critics say the latest setback could sound the death knell for the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) that is earmarked for Hinkley Point.
“Isn’t the EPR very close to collapse?” said Steve Thomas, Professor of Energy Policy, at the University of Greenwich. ‘How much more can go wrong before they say it’s time to give up on this.’
He called Hinkley Point “a project that needs an exit strategy”.
The Government is in talks with a consortium led by EdF, the French state owned electricity giant, to build two reactors at the site in north Somerset at a cost of £16 billion.
The EPR was designed by Areva, the French nuclear group, which has supplied the reactor vessel for the flagship power station being built by EdF at Flamanville in northern France.
Now French media outlets say the Flamanville project could be scrapped after Areva warned France’s nuclear watchdog that an examination of the vessel had revealed its “toughness values” to be “lower than expected”.