EDF nuclear plans on track despite Fukushima

EDF’s chief executive in the UK Vincent de Rivaz has said that Britain must learn all nuclear lessons from the Fukushima incident, yet stressed that his company’s plans are “undimmed” […]

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By Kelvin Ross

EDF’s chief executive in the UK Vincent de Rivaz has said that Britain must learn all nuclear lessons from the Fukushima incident, yet stressed that his company’s plans are “undimmed” by events in Japan.

Mr de Rivaz said that the fact that the UK does not face the same earthquake and tsunami risks as Japan does not diminish the need to learn lessons from the disaster.

“It is a very serious accident and there is no doubt that there will be consequences,” he told Andrew Marr on the BBC yesterday.

“As an industry, as part of our DNA, we have to learn, and what is happening in Japan will learn us. And all the lessons will be put into practice in our nuclear plants in Britain.

He said that since the reactor problems in Japan, EDF in the UK had reviewed its backup systems, and refreshed training and emergency procedures.

And with the future of nuclear looking uncertain in other European countries, including Germany and Switzerland, he praised the reaction of the UK to Fukushima.

“I am struck by the fact that the reaction in UK has been measured. The government, the Safety Regulator, local communities, and, dare I say, our staff, all have had a clearheaded reaction.”

He said while he was conscious “that this event will have an impact in the future”, our plans “are undimmed because the UK needs nuclear”.

And he stressed: “The question for me is not to make a pause. Our plans have to go ahead… and the question for us is how to go ahead without underestimating the consequences of the events.”

Last week, EDF’s deputy-director for nuclear output stressed the company’s safety credentials in the wake of the Japanese nuclear disaster.

Philippe Sasseigne said that the highest possible safety measures are in place at EDF’s 58 nuclear plants, adding that the company spent as much as €500m (£433m) on upgrades and €2bn (£1.7bn) on maintenance.

EDF is the world’s largest nuclear power generator and the biggest provider of nuclear power in the UK. It is the second biggest owner of infrastructure in the world, beaten only by the US government, with assets worth $115bn.

In January the company vowed to “engineer out the risk” of an accident at its power stations.

Responding to a government move to increase by seven-fold the liability payments that operators of nuclear installations must pay, EDF stated: “Liability in the event of an incident is only part of the answer. We believe it is far more important to engineer out the risk of an incident than to simply insure against it. Safety is the number one priority for EDF Energy and the nuclear industry.”