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EDF says to standardise corrosion repair works at nuclear plants

Steam rises from a cooling tower of the Electricite de France (EDF) nuclear power station in Civaux

By Benjamin Mallet

PARIS (Reuters) -French utility giant EDF said on Tuesday that it aims to standardise the corrosion repair works at its nuclear plants as it races against the clock to put as many as possible back in service amid a major energy crunch.

France's ailing nuclear fleet has come under scrutiny, with a wave of repairs at power stations forcing a record number of reactors offline and sending nuclear power production to a 30-year low, worsening Europe's energy crisis.

"We are in a phase where it is industrialisation and standardisation which is the key to control the impact (of corrosion)," Regis Clement, deputy director of nuclear production at EDF, told a news conference.

The teams "engaged in a repair must follow a process that is reproduced from reactor to reactor. This will make this more efficient and gradually reduce the duration of construction sites", he said, adding that EDF now hoped to move on from a semester of crisis management of the repairs with what he described as a strategy on handling corrosions.

EDF had to lower its 2022 nuclear output forecast yet again last week to 275-285 terawatt-hours (TWh) extension of four reactor outages for repairs linked to corrosion problems.

It said on Thursday that the strikes accounted for 4 TWh in lost production.

Separately, Clement confirmed that a leak detected last week at EDF's Civaux nuclear plant in southwestern France was not due to welding but to problems with a system put in place to test the waterproofing of the primary circuit.

EDF on Monday said it had discovered a radioactive leak last week in the primary cooling circuit at its Civaux plant, but that there was no safety risk and no radioactivity was measured outside the plant.

The Civaux 1 1,500-megawatt reactor has been shut since August 2021 for scheduled 10-year maintenance.

Although Civaux is one of several reactors affected by corrosion problems, which have led EDF to cut its 2022 nuclear output forecast repeatedly, the French utility said the incident was not linked to that problem.

But work on the plant is already behind schedule and EDF now faced "a potential major further delay" because of this new problem, an industry source familiar with the situation told Reuters on Monday.

(Reporting by Benjamin Mallet; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Louise Heavens)