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EDF must repair Flam-3 welds before operation: nuclear regulator

London — EDF must repair eight welds in the containment area of its 1.6 GW Flamanville-3 EPR nuclear plant in Normandy before commissioning can take place, French nuclear regulator ASN said Thursday.

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Operator EDF thought the repairs could be completed by the end of 2022, ASN president Bernard Doroszczuk said in a press conference Thursday.

A rupture in the welds could "no longer be considered to be highly unlikely," Doroszczuk said. "The EPR cannot be put into service as it is."

ASN rejected as unrealistic EDF's initial proposal to repair the welds in 2024, after the plant had been put into operation.

EDF said in a statement Thursday it would review the impact of the ruling on its commissioning schedule and construction costs, giving a detailed update in the coming weeks.

BNP Paribas analyst James Sparrow said the delay and additional work could add Eur1 billion ($1.3 billion) to the current project budget of Eur10.9 billion.

EDF had previously expected fuel loading to start at the plant in Q4 2019, with the market expecting a start to commissioning in early 2020.

Construction of the EPR began in 2007. Multiple delays forced EDF to postpone the closure of two 900 MW units at its Fessenheim reactor, which had been planned for end-2018.

Fessenheim is only licensed to operate until 2020 for one unit and to 2022 for the other.

-- Henry Edwardes-Evans, henry.edwardes-evans@spglobal.com; Andreas Franke, andreas.franke@spglobal.com

-- Edited by James Burgess, newsdesk@spglobal.com