U.S. plans to name nuclear reactors using potentially flawed Areva parts

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By Timothy Gardner and Scott DiSavino | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission told French nuclear power company Areva SA it will publish as early as next week the names of U.S. reactors
that contain components from its Le Creusot forge that is
suspected of falsifying documents despite the company’s claim
that the information is proprietary.

The written notice, dated Dec. 30 and seen by Reuters on
Thursday, underscores rising tension between the U.S. nuclear
regulatory body and Areva after French authorities opened an
investigation last month into decades of alleged forgery
relating to the quality of parts produced at the forge and used
in power plants around the world.

The NRC has investigated whether the suspected falsification
of documents poses any risks for U.S. nuclear plants, but has
said it has found that the plants are safe.

“At this time, there are no indications of any specific
safety concerns for U.S. reactors,” NRC spokesman David McIntyre
said on Thursday.

Still, anti-nuclear power advocates, including Greenpeace,
have pushed NRC to reveal which U.S. reactors have the
components, saying that there could be risks to the public.

Areva sent the names of at least nine U.S. reactors with
parts from Le Creusot on Dec. 15, but asked the agency not to
name them due to proprietary business concerns. The NRC’s letter
says the agency is not convinced the information is of
competitive value, and will release the names 10 calendar days
after receipt of the missive unless Areva challenges it.

“The NRC does not currently have sufficient information to
determine that competitive harm would result from releasing this
information,” the agency said in the letter.

A U.S. government source said that Areva has indicated it
will not challenge the NRC’s publication of the names, which
could occur as early as Tuesday. A U.S. spokesman for Areva did
not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reuters has independently identified four of the U.S.
reactors that are using components from Le Creusot, a fifth that
may contain them, and a sixth that may have them on hand for
future installation.

All of the owners of the reactors said the components meet
their quality standards and their reactors are safe.

Florida power company NextEra Energy Inc said it had
one reactor with one component from the Le Creusot forge but did
not name the part or the reactor. NextEra owns eight reactors –
four in Florida, two in Wisconsin, one in New Hampshire and one
in Iowa.

NextEra spokesman Peter Robbins said the component “has
performed its function for over a decade and been subject to
detailed inspections and monitoring, none of which has ever
detected any design or performance issues.”

Minnesota power company Xcel Energy Inc said some
components of the two reactor vessels at its Prairie Island
plant were made at Le Creusot in the early 1970s. “Our testing
and inspections are rigorous and have not identified any
issues,” Colleen Mahoney, an Xcel spokeswoman said.

In December, Dominion Resources Inc said that its
Millstone station in Connecticut has had a pressurizer from Le
Creusot in service since 2006. Spokesman Ken Holt said at the
time that the part is fully operational and will remain so for
the life of the plant.

In addition, FirstEnergy Corp said its Beaver Valley
reactor in Pennsylvania has steam generators and reactor vessel
heads manufactured by Spain’s Equipos Nucleares SA, or ENSA,
which may contain some components from Le Creusot. The parts
were installed in Unit 1 but will not be installed in Unit 2 for
a few years.

Another company, Entergy Corp, which is listed on a
Greenpeace report as having parts from Le Creusot, would not
comment on whether its reactors have parts from the forge,
saying it cannot comment on details related to its vendors.

There are 99 reactors operating in the United States
producing about 20 percent of the nation’s power.

The Paris prosecutor’s office opened an investigation in
December into Le Creusot alleging forgery, endangerment of
lives, and aggravated deception and thousands of documents
dating to 1965 were being looked at. Areva said then that it was
fully cooperating with the investigation.

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