According to the French daily Le Figaro in its Monday edition, the construction of the first EPR reactor in France has begun and is going on well.
The EPR technology provides several improvements to the current nuclear plants, including increased yield and security, decreased waste and radiations.
This reactor will be operational in 2012 and will produce 1.650 MW. In this article I outline the specificities of this reactor and its commercial potential.
The construction of the EPR is a major event for the French companies EDF and Areva that are building it. The goal is to show that this reactor with its 3rd generation technology have many advantages over its competitors.
Among the countries that might be interested by the know-how of these companies, we have China and the United States which are the largest energy consumers but also South Africa and the United Kingdom.
China signed last week a contract for two reactors of this generation which are due to be operational in 2013-14. The contract is worth eight billion Euros. (11.7 billion US Dollars)
The plant, called Flamanville 3 will be powerful enough to provide electricity to 1.5 million people. The project will cost a total of 3.3 billion Euros.
The two other Flamanville plants have been working for now twenty years and provide four percent of the total electricity of France.
EPR reactors are also due to replace current ones in France. This is a question of importance as France has over 56 reactors.
The oldest plant, Fessenheim, will be 40 years old in 2019. This age is considered as the maximum for the plants according for the French utility company.
The EPR nuclear plants will bring several improvements comparing to the current generation of reactors. To EDF :
(EPR will) reduce chemical and radioactive releases to the environment by at least 30% per kWh during the operating phase (excluding tritium and carbon-14 releases which are equivalent to those of current nuclear power plants per kWh).
There will be an overall drop in the volume of radioactive waste (a 30% decrease for certain waste categories). In order to limit the impact on freshwater intake, a desalination plant is planned for the site.
This 1650-MW reactor (as opposed to 1450 MW for the latest reactor series) consumes 17% less fuel due to the use of more efficient assemblies and higher turbine efficiency.
This improvement, along with refuelling outage times which are 2 to 3 times shorter, will increase annual power output by 36% compared with current reactors.
All this is very interesting and it is worth noting that Finland, a country which is quite famous for being “green“, is building the first EPR reactor ever. The plant will become operational in 2011.
So the one being built in France is not the first, but the second one.
To infer this article I would like to state that I hope these plants will become mainstream as they bring significant improvements over current reactors and as nuclear is a very serious clean alternative to coal.