Problems at French nuclear construction site for company seeking Ont. contract

Sunday, April 6, 2008

One of the companies competing to build new nuclear reactors in Ontario has run into trouble with regulators in France.

The French nuclear safety watchdog says there are a number of serious infractions in the Areva construction of a reactor in northern France - the same type of reactor it wants to sell to Ontario.

Areva is one of four companies competing to build Ontario's next power reactors, but in March the French Nuclear Energy Agency cited the company for shortcomings in the reactor's construction.

The agency says there was inadequate preparatory work before pouring concrete; the concrete base was smaller than promised; and reinforcing rods weren't up to standard.

Greenpeace International obtained a copy of the letter from the agency that was sent to Areva.

'I think it shows the shoddy workmanship that Areva's doing building the reactors overseas,' said Sean Patrick Stensil, Greenpeace's nuclear expert in Ontario. 'And that should make Ontario ask, 'Would you want to buy or do you trust Areva to build a reactor here in Ontario?''

Areva's spokespeople in Ontario would not comment about the problems in France.

Ontario Energy Minister Gerry Philips says the criticism won't change things.
'I don't think it changes the process at all that we'll follow,' Philips told CBC News. 'We have a regulator who is required to ensure the public of its safety.'
Phillips hopes to choose a nuclear technology design — either Canadian-made Candu or a foreign design — in December.

'It's going to be crucial that the people of Ontario are satisfied [the technology] works, that they can deliver it on time, and that it meets all of the regulatory requirements,' the minister said.

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