Areva — a multinational organization active in nuclear energy system design, development, and operation — has committed to restarting its Le Creusot Forge foundry in France, which has been idled due to an investigation into the production of defective parts for nuclear reactor systems. Bernard Fontana, a director of Areva NP, a business unit that produces component parts for pressurized-water nuclear reactors, recently reported the foundry should restart later this year will be updated in order to form larger reactor parts, including containment vessels.
Fontana said Areva would ensure the foundry's production processes, record-keeping procedures, and product quality would meet the highest standards, but it would also invest so the plant can make the biggest nuclear components, such as reactor containment vessels.
"We accept with humility that we need to improve our procedures,” he reportedly stated. “We are confident that we will be the world benchmark among nuclear foundries,”
Fontana added that the restart should take place this summer, though some upgrade projects would not be completed before next year. He did not detail the specific capital investments that would be undertaken there.
Areva is a state-owned designer and builder of nuclear power plants. It’s European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) pressurized-water nuclear reactors are installed at numerous power plants in Europe and in China. It also owns Le Creusot Forge, which casts parts and forges and finishes reactor components, such as parts for steam generator, pressure vessels, pressurizer heads, primary pumps, and primary piping. The operation also manufactures parts for nuclear material transportation, wind energy systems, petrochemical processing, rolling mills, and naval vessels.
Production at Le Creusot was stopped in 2016 once investigators found manufacturing flaws and evidence of falsification in documents tracking the defects. France’s nuclear regulatory agency, ASN, ordered Areva to make a series of improvements before it would consider allowing the plant to restart.
Fontana told reports at Areva is investing €8 million (about $8.5 million) at Le Creusot to be able to produce the largest nuclear components, parts that it has heretofore subcontracted to other foundries, including Japan Steel Works. "We want to be able to manufacture the entire range of components, including the very largest," Fontana said.
"We have put forward an improvement plan for Le Creusot with a number of milestones in terms of technology, organization, and culture,” according to Fontana. “These integrate the comments we have received from the ASN and other regulators."