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UK nuclear strategy faces meltdown as faults are found in identical French project via The Independent

A “very serious” fault has been discovered in a French nuclear power station which is at the heart of David Cameron’s strategy to “keep the lights on” in Britain in the next decade.

The future of two nuclear reactors planned for Hinkley Point in Somerset has been thrown into doubt by the discovery of a potentially catastrophic mistake in the construction of an identical EPR power plant in Normandy.

“It is a serious fault, even a very serious fault, because it involves a crucial part of the nuclear reactor,” said Pierre-Franck Chevet, head of France’s nuclear safety inspectorate.

A second investigation has been ordered into the quality of the steel used to make a 50ft-high safety casing, or “pressure vessel”, which encloses the groundbreaking new reactor at Flamanville, near Cherbourg. If the steel proves to be defective, the completion of the prototype EPR plant – already behind schedule and nearly three times over budget – could be delayed for several years.

Mr Chevet also revealed that the same manufacturing techniques had been used in the steel for the identical safety casings destined for Hinkley Point, which “have already been manufactured”.

[…]

Sources in the French nuclear industry told the newspaper Le Parisien yesterday that dismantling the faulty pressure vessel and ordering and manufacturing a new one could take several years. “If the weakness of the steel is proved, I don’t hold out much hope for the survival of the EPR project,” a former senior nuclear safety official told Le Parisien.

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