EDF Energy has insisted that the construction of its Hinkley Point C nuclear project remains “on track” after fresh delays to the French plant that is using the same pioneering nuclear reactor.

EDF announced yesterday (25 July) in Paris that it will not be able to start loading nuclear fuel into its Flamanville European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) until the final quarter of 2019, a year later than the previous planned target date.

The delay has been triggered by defects in the welding of the pipes through which steam produced in the plant’s generator is conducted towards the turbine.

Just over a fifth (33) of the 148 welds in the system, which have been inspected so far, have been found to be defective and will be repaired.

EDF has also decided to rework a further 20 welds, even though they do not have any defects, because they do not comply with the requirements set during the EPR design phase.

EDF notified the French nuclear regulator ASN in April about the defects in the welds which came to light while it was carrying out performance checks.

The target construction costs have been revised from €10.5 billion to €10.9 billion, partially to account for the extra high-tech welding work.

The Flamanville project, which uses the same EPR pressurised water reactor that is planned for deployment at Hinkley, was already six years behind schedule before the latest setback.

The “hot tests” of the plant are scheduled to commence before the end of 2018.

A spokesperson for EDF Energy, said: “The construction of Hinkley Point C remains on track. The project has already benefitted and will continue to learn from the experience of other projects.”

Greenpeace said the latest setback “boded ill” for the Hinkley C project.

Kate Blagojevic, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, said: “EDF’s nuclear design just doesn’t work very well. The nuclear power plant in Finland is a decade late and because of yet more technical problems, the Flamanville plant has gone from late to later. This bodes ill for Hinkley Point C and for the government’s energy policy more broadly as its irrational nuclear obsession is becoming ever more economically and environmentally nonsensical.

“Nuclear is the only low-carbon technology which is relentlessly increasing in price as wind and solar costs plummet. If energy policy was a horse race, nuclear would have been sent to the knacker’s yard a long time ago, but the government just keep flogging it.”

The Hinkley Point C project was originally promised for delivery at the end of last year but was only approved in 2016.

However EDF announced at the end of last month that its Taishan 1 EPR, which the company is helping to develop in China, had became the first of its type in the world to be successfully connected to the grid.

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