France’s Framatome (formerly Areva NP) received approval on 25 January from the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire (ASN - Nuclear Safety Authority) and from EDF to resume manufacture of forgings for the French nuclear fleet at its Le Creusot site, which Areva bought in 2006. The approval is the result of an improvement plan launched at the site at the beginning of 2016, which Framatome said is now 90% complete.
The improvement plan followed a series of quality audits undertaken after ASN in April 2015 identified an anomaly in the composition of the steel in some zones of the vessel closure head and the vessel bottom head of the Flamanville EPR reactor. ASN asked Areva NP and EDF to "learn all possible lessons from this event". However, in May 2016, ASN said an ongoing quality audit at Le Creusot forge had identified "irregularities" in paperwork on some 400 plant components produced there since 1965.
Of the 6000 records identified during the initial survey, 3854 correspond to forgings installed on nuclear installations. The forge has been out of operation since December 2015, while necessary checks were made at affected NPPs. The plant has now set a target of 80 ingots a year. An audit of Framatome's Jeumont and Saint-Marcel sites was completed last summer, it said, and "no deviation impacting the safety of components has been brought to light".
With the completion of all the actions necessary to resume production, the improvement plan will be fully closed out in the first half of 2018. The measures will then be incorporated into the site's continuous improvement processes. Customers in France and abroad, as well as all the safety authorities concerned, have been kept informed of the actions undertaken. Numerous reviews and inspections have been conducted to observe the progress of the plan and integrate stakeholders’ feedback.
Framatome said the first stage in the inspection process being applied to all records relating to forgings produced for the nuclear industry is now complete. The analysis of these findings and the processing of deviations will continue until the end of this year.
Maintaining and developing the skills at Le Creusot is a key element of the site's improvement plan, with a particular focus on strengthening the nuclear safety culture. Framatome invested €7.5m ($9.32m) at the site in 2017.