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France / EDF Unveils Plans To Improve Governance Of Major Nuclear Projects

By David Dalton
17 December 2019

New committee will review objectives, costs, schedules and key contracts
EDF Unveils Plans To Improve Governance Of Major Nuclear Projects
Jean-Bernard Lévy will chair a committee whose role it will be to review major projects. Photo courtesy EDF.
France’s state-controlled utility and nuclear operator EDF said on Monday it has earmarked €100m for 2020 and 2021 for a plan to improve the governance of major nuclear projects and raise manufacturing standards and skills in the country’s nuclear industry.

For each major project, EDF’s chairman and chief executive officer, currently Jean-Bernard Lévy, will chair a committee whose role it will be to review the project’s initial data, set its objectives, costs and schedules, review financial commitments and approve key contracts.

At the end of October the government gave EDF one month to deliver a plan to fix problems at the state-backed group’s Generation III Flamanville-3 EPR project in Normandy. It is not clear if the plan announced on Monday is directly related to the government request.

A government-commissioned report had criticised EDF for lacking a “culture of quality”, as reflected in delays and cost overruns at Flamanville.

The report pointed to several issues besetting the wider French nuclear industry, including a lack of specific skills at EDF, poor project management and problems the group has had in integrating the nuclear business of its failed competitor Areva.

EDF’s plan, known as Excell, includes an overhaul of the industry’s customer-supplier relationship to seek “a more balanced risk sharing and the establishment of contracts that align with manufacturing standards”.

EDF said the choice of suppliers will put greater emphasis on quality requirements. Suppliers will also be more involved in the drafting of specifications and the assessment of manufacturability.

The company said it plans to open a university dedicated to nuclear disciplines. It also wants to establish a plan for the hiring and training of welders, who will be qualified to meet the industry’s standards.

In October the company said the estimated cost of Flamanville-3 had increased by €1.5bn because of the need for repairs of faulty welds.

Mr Lévy said the plan will lay the groundwork for a renewal of confidence in France’s nuclear industry. “Our aim is to ensure that nuclear power, a carbon-neutral energy source, continues to fulfil its pivotal role in the fight against climate change,” he said.

Mr Lévy said recently that France is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050 and “nobody thinks we can ensure this with an energy system only with renewables and storage”.

Le Monde reported that the French government had asked EDF to prepare for “a new start” for nuclear energy with plans to construct six EPR units over the next 15 years.

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