EDF, a French energy group, has discovered a significant crack in a cooling pipe at one of its nuclear power plants on the Channel coast.
The aging reactors at the plant have been experiencing maintenance problems over the past year, causing EDF to take more than a dozen of them offline for checks and emergency repairs. Last month, the group reported a “serious corrosion problem” on an emergency cooling system at its Penly 1 plant, which was among the 16 taken offline in the last year.
The new crack, 15.5 cm long and up to 2.3 cm deep, covers around a quarter of the circumference of the 2.7 cm thick pipe.
France’s Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) has ordered EDF to revise its strategy for addressing the corrosion problems, which could have major financial repercussions for the debt-laden state-owned utility, as well as France’s energy production capacity. The country, which normally supplies around 70% of its energy needs through its nuclear park, needed to import power from Germany and other neighbors over the winter due to the problems.
The regulator has stated that the crack at Penly does not pose an immediate danger to the environment or human life, given its location on a pipe system designed to cool the reactor only in the event of an emergency.
However, nuclear safety expert Yves Marignac said, “What is new… is the depth of the crack.” EDF’s debt rose to 64.5 billion euros in 2022, while losses have reached 17.9 billion euros.
The discovery of the new crack adds to the ongoing challenges faced by the energy sector in maintaining and upgrading aging infrastructure.
Moreover, the incident highlights the importance of regular maintenance and investment in the energy sector to ensure the safety of workers and the public and the stability of energy production.