Structurally Faulty Welds Found in French Nuclear Reactors

The devil, as they say, is in the details. Unfortunately, this English proverb translates to a €400 million problem in French for the state-owned power company, Electricite de France SA. In an announcement Tuesday, the company issued a warning that several of its nuclear reactors have been structurally compromised by faulty welding. EDF said it was made aware of the problem by nuclear supplier and subsidiary, Framatome; the company declined, however, to comment on the potential shutdown of any of its 58 reactors across the European country.

By noon Tuesday shares of the company had fallen by 6.8%, despite insistence from EDF that all reactors would not be compromised as Framatome used different welding techniques on different reactors. The issue reared its head primarily in steam generator welds—which were found to deviate from established technical standards required to ensure reactor components meet the safety guidelines set forth by the French nuclear industry regulatory commission.

For a country which is so hyper-dependent on nuclear power for its energy (the IAEA estimated France’s 2018 energy supply at 71.67% from nuclear sources), the idea of weakened steel in such crucial applications is troubling indeed.

In the United States, our nuclear fleet is governed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), under whose auspices OTEK Corporation became a Class 1E/Appendix B nuclear-qualified supplier. Why did we do it? Well, the long hours and mountains of paperwork were part of the obligation we undertook when we decided to lend our technologically advanced DPM’s to help the industry reclaim its rightful place in our energy future. We figured the most effective place to start was the heart—the nuclear Instrumentation & Control rooms where thousands of obsolete analog technologies still hang like weary eyes all around operators and suffer from stuck needles, subjectivity, and unreliability. It’s not hard to imagine—analog meters like the DB40 and GE180 were being put into control rooms as far back as the 1970s. That’s why we’ve invested heavily in technologically enhanced Plug & Play replacements for obsolete analogs such as Versatile, Sigma, Wechsler, Scientech and many others—our NTM and SSAM models are designed to slide right into the panel cutout using all the same wiring, terminals, and only minimal procedural training for operators.

Both of the aforementioned models are also designed to effectively meet the mandates established by NEI 08-09 with regard to cybersecurity—with the NTM carrying a C.S. “Compliant” status and SSAM registering as “Exempt” from C.S. standards by way of being built without any microprocessors or other critical digital components.

Even the French, who use more of it than anyone else on earth, haven’t hammered out all the details (literally) on nuclear energy; if America is going to regain her place at the forefront of global nuclear power than we’d do well do mind the devil too.

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