Courtesy: Reuters

PARIS, June 9 (Reuters) – France’s radiation risk adviser has raised questions about safety valves at a nuclear plant Areva is building for EDF in the country’s northwest region after anomalies were found, a senior official said.

The deputy director general of the state-funded IRSN, Thierry Charles, told Reuters that some safety valves were found not to close correctly in tests conducted at the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), a state-of-the-art electricity generator under construction at Flamanville in Normandy.

Areva, the state-controlled reactor builder and nuclear group that is undergoing an emergency financial restructuring, said the findings were part of a normal testing process before the EPR goes into service.

EPR in Flamanville

EPR in Flamanville

“All of this is part of the normal qualification work on the equipment that the IRSN is doing,” an Areva spokesman said.

France’s ASN nuclear regulator has already flagged weak spots in the steel used in the reactor, which is behind schedule and billions of euros over budget.

Charles said the safety valves issue figured among a number of questions the body has raised as it prepares a report for the ASN about whether the plant is ready to enter service.

“In some tests we saw some safety valves that did not function as planned. That doesn’t mean that there is a definite problem, it only means there are points to be dealt with,” Charles said.

Charles said it was too early to tell whether the safety valves issue, which was first reported by the Mediapart news website, could delay the plant’s entry into service, currently slated for 2017.

The French government backed plans last week to recapitalise Areva as part of a major restructuring that would also see EDF take over the company’s nuclear reactor business. (Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Andrew Callus and Louise Heavens)