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Crack discovered at another French nuclear plant

The latest one was found at Cattenom in eastern France. It comes just two days after a fissure was found at one of the country’s largest nuclear plants in Normandy

The plant in Cattenom, Moselle, has been out of action for a year already Pic: Guig’s Timelapse / Shutterstock

Another crack has been discovered at a nuclear power plant in France, it has emerged.

It comes just days after a ‘particularly deep crack’ was found at Penly in Normandy, one of the biggest nuclear plants in France.

The latest defect was found at a plant in Cattenom, Moselle, near the French border with Germany and Luxembourg. 

Repair works were already underway. As the plant was offline, there is no danger to anybody in the vicinity of the plant, nor the nearby environment, and the plant is still expected to go back online before the end of the month.

The crack was not classed as dangerous by France’s nuclear watchdog.

165 millimetres long

The crack at Cattenom was found on Thursday (March 9) in a pipe in the safety injection system, which helps to ensure a reactor’s shutdown in the event of an accident.

It measured over 165 millimetres, or around 25% of the circumference of the pipe, but only 4 millimetres in depth. Therefore it was classed as a level one fault (or simply an anomaly in the infrastructure) according to the French Nuclear Safety Authority (Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire).

Cattenom has been offline for a year while maintenance works are carried out. It is set to go back online on March 26 – a target state-owned energy firm EDF is still confident of hitting.

Further delays to the opening of the plant will not be well received, with France’s electricity production already strained by a number of plants being out of action for repairs.

This news comes only two days after the discovery of a crack at the Penly plant in the north of France, which led to calls for EDF to “revise its strategy” regarding safety checks at plants.

The new safety strategy, to be announced in the coming days, is expected to include over 200 extra checks across France’s 56 nuclear power plants.

These additional checks may cause further shutdowns and prolonged delays to the reopening of a number of reactors, placing even further strain on an energy sector that is already stretched.

Read also: MAP: Where are the six new nuclear reactors planned for in France?

Second ‘stress corrosion’ defect in a week

Similar to the damage found earlier this week at the Penly plant, the crack at Cattenom is also due to the phenomena of ‘stress corrosion’.

Simply put, it is the wearing down of infrastructure from extended use.

It was caused specifically by thermal fatigue – that is, the safety injection system was subject to temperature changes that were too quick or too strong, eventually causing the fault.

Since the first discovery of a stress corrosion defect at Civaux in 2021, over 15 plants in France have been shut or closed for maintenance, as the ageing nuclear infrastructure in France struggles to deal with electricity demands. 

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