Creys Malville (France)

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Superphenix 1200 MW FBR - Reactor - suspended, shut down 31.12.1998

Facilities in Creys Malville

plantreactor typconstruction startoperation startshut down
Creys Malville SuperphenixFBR197619861998

A parliamentary inquiry commission recommended in the report on "Superphenix and the Fast Neutron Reactor Line" the immediate decommissioning of the 1,240-MW plant.
The commission focused on future issues, such as dismantling the plant and aiding plant personnel and local contractors dependent on it. Over two-thirds of the 1,125 permanent site jobs will disappear within 10 years, and 2,000 others more rapidly.

The report insisted that Superphenix´s failure by no means condemns the fast reactor line, which the commission concluded holds "promise" for the future, between 2030 and 2050"
Socialist MPs call for more democracy in nuclear decisionmaking, terming it incredible that France has invested 1-trillion francs in its nuclear program without the Parliament ever having been consulted.

The 100-page Superphenix report, and a thick accompanying volume reproducing the hearings of the commission, constitute a detailed history of the decision to build the big breeder.
The scale-up in size from the 250-MW Phenix prototype to Superphenix - skipping the 600-MW intermediate size favored by designer Commissariat a l`Energie Atomique (CEA) - was a "major error" that the report attributed to economic pressure from the future operator, Nersa, and its French majority partner, Electricite de France (EDF).
Superphenix construction began in 1976, when EDF was already fully occupied with its PWR program and had lost interest in a future fast reactor program,
The report recalls that, although Superphenix was down 25 months for repair after incidents, administrative procedures were responsible for 54 months of downtime. The reactor's 53 months of normal operation produced 8000 MWh.
The French accounting office's estimates the total cost - up to FF 63.5-billion .


Three French ministers have rejected Nersa´s 1992 application to operate the Superphenix breeder reactor and have asked the multinational utility to submit the information needed to prepare a decommissioning/dismantling license for the plant.
Based on Nersa´s technical scenario for closing Superphenix, two decrees will be prepared by DSIN and issued by the government in the coming months, the first authorizing unloading of core subassemblies and emptying the 5,500 metric tons of sodium coolant, the second a decommissioning license per se.


A crack in a small reserve instrumentation tube was responsible for a leak in the steam generator compartment.
Non-radioactive steam leak. The tube failure, due to a creep phenomenon, stemmed from the fact that the wrong kind of steel had been used for that particular tube - carbon steel rather than the 505 chrome-molybdenum alloy.


Shutdown after a series of incidents, that began with failure of an electronic circuit board running a secondary circ. pump just after the plant had been connected to the grid. The second incident involved spurious action of an alarm in sodium leak detection system. At the same day a valve in the nitrogen pressurization system associated woith the SG opened unexpectedly, awakening local residents with a loud noise. The valve opening was due to lack of coordination betweeen two operating shifts, but resembled earlier failures in depressurization system.


Restart permisssion issued.
Nersa shareholders have agreed to stay together and the largest foreign shareholders German & Italian utilities have signed a renegotiated Nersa convention valid to 2001.


DSIN issued an autorization for repair. Plant should be ready to restart around 8-10. August, following repair of 22 mm argon piping in IHX. Except for a brief period of operation on 20% power in December 1994 the plant has been off line since July 1990.


Industry sources confirmed figure published by Le Progres de Lyon: estimating the cost of dismantling Creys-Malville at US$ 1700 million and potential claims from Nersa's shareholder at US$ 3000 - 5000 million
In case of shutdown of the FBR for other than safety reasons the government would have to compensate local communities for loss of revenues from plant operation and some of the 2500 jobs that depend on the plant would also be lost.


The Swiss energy department is organizing a one-day hearing on safety aspects of the FBR at the Federal Institute of technology. French & Swiss experts as well as opponents are to discuss French plans for operating the plant as a research facility..

Superphenix has long been opposed in Geneva which is about 70 km from the plant. A recent poll indicated that 60% of Genevans were afraid of the FBR and over 70% would like to see it closed.


Partners in NERSA - owner of the FBR - can't agree on a new corporate convention that takes into account that the plant originally designed as the prototype for a series of commercial reactors, is now a very large research reactor.
Germany`s RWE (16%) and Italy's ENEL (33%) will stay in NERSA, with some modifications regarding electricity delivery - said the EdF (51%). But Belgium's Electrabel & Holland's SEP which hold minor shares want to leave. Hence since July 1990 the plant has generated electricity for only two days and the French government has announced that the reactor will become a research tool for to study the plutonium burning and actinide transmutation.


Shutdown after only 24 h of operation at 20% power. Analysis of operational data.


Leaks detected in 1 of the 8 intermediate heat exchangers (IHX).


Restart after more than 4 years off line.


Part of the turbine building roof fell under the weight of snow -> 1 of 2 400 kV power supply lines unavailable -> loss of offsite power (the 225kV line had been unavailable since the beginning of the snowstorms on Dec. 9.),


A compressure failure allowed air to enter into the argon that normally isolates the primary circuit. The air caused abnormally high oxidation of the sodium and subsequent clogging of the cold traps that normally prevent impurities from remaining in the coolant. Reactor will be down for several months.
Outage was prolonged to 4 years !! Restart in August 1994 operating at 3% power : In September 1994 an argon leak was detected in 1 of the 8 intermediate heat exchangers. Rise to 30% power was delayed to November 1994.


Sodium leak in a 25mm diameter pipe in the purification system. The leak is caused by a imperfectly closing small valve in the purification system: cold sodium had seeped into the larger pipe which carries hot sodium to a SG. The thermal cycling had fatigued the weld at the T-junction.


During testing an ampoule containing the tracer gas Kr-79 broke prematurely. Nine workers had to be evacuated from the reactor building. Contamination was above the limit (200 kBq/m³ instead of 80 kBq/m³)


Plant was down for work when a handling device that had been installed to modify the access to the reactor building polar cran fell about 30 m onto the dome that covers the reactor roof slab as it was tested. No apparant damage was done.