French nuclear plant reports ruptured pipe during safety test

A nuclear power plant in central France has failed a safety check after a pipe linked to the reactor cooling system ruptured during testing, EDF has said.

French nuclear plant reports ruptured pipe during safety test
The Civaux nuclear power plant. (Photo by GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP)

The incident at the Civaux plant, which is offline for maintenance and tests, risks delaying its return to service at a time that France is worried about its ability to produce enough electricity over the winter.

The plant, the most modern in the French network, was shut in August 2021 after corrosion problems were detected in the welds used in its emergency cooling system.

The incident in Civaux on November 2nd “was absolutely not a weld that gave way”, Regis Clement, deputy head of EDF’s nuclear production unit, told reporters.

A pipe linked to the primary cooling system of one of the reactors ruptured, leading high-pressure steam to escape as well as a radioactive “metal object” that had to be retrieved via a robot, Clement added.

Around 80 cubic metres of waste water resulting from the leak had been captured.

“There is no risk for the environment or for public health,” the deputy head of France’s IRSN nuclear safety regulator, Karine Herviou, told franceinfo radio.

The discovery of the corroded welds at Civaux last August led EDF to shut 12 reactors built to the same design for testing.

Almost half of the country’s 56 reactors are currently offline, meaning the country is expected to have to buy electricity from the European electricity market this winter.

The Civaux plant had been scheduled to come back on stream in January. Clement said it was “too early” to say if the ruptured pipe would delay this.

Under pressure from the government to speed up its maintenance work, Clement said on Tuesday that EDF was aiming to have 42 reactors online by December 1st and 46 by January 1st, compared to just 30 currently.

Around 500 specialist welders are currently working on the cooling systems, including 100 contractors brought in from the United States and Canada.

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France offers grants up to €1,500 to replace oil-fired boilers

Financial aid of up to €1,500 is temporarily available to households looking to replace oil-fired boilers with a more environmentally friendly heating systems. 

France offers grants up to €1,500 to replace oil-fired boilers

The temporary ‘coup de boost’ aims to encourage households to replace their oil-fired heating systems (chauffauge au fioul) and is in addition to the ‘coup de pouce chauffage’ (heating helping hand) scheme that is already underway to help under the energy saving certificates scheme (CEE).

All households that are primary residences – this aid is not available to second-home owners – equipped with an oil-fired boiler can benefit, with the amount for which they are eligible means-tested according to household resources and the replacement system chosen. 

Households with modest incomes benefit from a higher premium.

To benefit from the new temporary bonus, households must replace their individual oil-fired boiler with a more environmentally friendly heating system:

  • heat pump (air/water or hybrid);
  • combined solar system;
  • biomass boiler (wood or pellets);
  • connection to a heating network supplied mainly by renewable or recovered energy.

The total amount of financial help from the two schemes is €4,000 to €5,000 for low-income households; and from €2,500 to €4,000 for middle and high-income households.

For the connection of an individual house to a heating network, the amount of the bonus increases from €700 to €1,000 for low-income households; and from €450 to €900 for middle and high income households.

Estimates for the replacement of an oil-fired boiler must be accepted between October 29th, 2022, and June 30th, 2023, and work must be completed by December 31st, 2023.

The Coup de boost fioul aid can also be combined with MaPrimeRénov to replace an oil-fired boiler, meaning the least well-off households in France can benefit from aid of up to €16,000 to replace an oil-fired boiler with a pellet boiler or a combined solar system.

Since mid-April 2022, MaPrimeRénov’ financial aid has increased by an additional €1,000 for the installation of a renewable energy boiler. This can now reach €11,000 for the most efficient boilers (pellet boiler, combined solar system) and for households with modest incomes.

It must be noted that the installation of a very high energy performance gas boiler will no longer be eligible for MaPrimeRénov’ as of January 1st, 2023.

Find more details on the scheme HERE.