Faulty pipe forces French nuke plant to shut down

France's oldest nuclear plant at Fessenheim had to be shut down at the weekend due to a defected pipe, authorities said. Activists have long campaigned for the plant's permanent closure due to its age.

Faulty pipe forces French nuke plant to shut down
Greenpeace activists stormed Fessenheim nuclear plant in March 2014. The plant was closed at the weekend due to a defective pipe. Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP

Energy production has been shut down at France's oldest nuclear power plant after a pipe defect was discovered, the station's operators said Sunday.

The Fessenheim plant, which is near the Swiss and German borders, was halted on Saturday just before 1900 GMT due to a flaw in a pipe in the machine room, which does not house nuclear material, a statement from energy supplier EDF said.

"The station's staff are currently diagnosing the exact cause of this event," said EDF, adding the defect had "no consequence on the safety of the facility, the environment or staff."

The fault was in production unit one, while production unit 2 had been shut down since overnight Friday for maintenance and refuelling work which is expected to take several weeks.

The emergency shutdown is the second for the station since April, when it was taken out of service for a few days due to two incidents, including a pipe defect in its water supply system.

Fessenheim houses two 900 megawatt reactors and has been running since 1977, making its France's oldest operating plant. 

When a new plant comes online in northern France, which is currently set for 2017, Fessenheim is to be taken out of service.

Due to its age activists have long called for it to be permanently closed.

In March 2014 Greenpeace militants stormed the power station, climbed up to the roof of part of the plant next to one of the nuclear reactors to unfurl a banner reading “Stop risking Europe”.

The protest stunt, which wasn't Greenpeace’s first at French nuclear power stations, came just days before European heads of state are set to meet to discuss the future of Europe’s energy industry.

Greenpeace wants French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to push Europe towards real energy transition, rather than really on either nuclear power, as is the case in France or coal power, in Germany’s case.

“The aging nuclear plants in France and coal plants in Germany and Eastern Europe should be abandoned in favour of a massive development of renewable energy across Europe,” said Cyrille Cormier, who is head of Greenpeace’s Energy Campaign in Europe.

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