France to build second reactor of new generation

French President Nicolas Sarkozy says France will build a second new-generation nuclear reactor.

France has been constructing its first European Pressurized Reactor on the Normandy coast. Sarkozy said Thursday that France will build a second EPR reactor. He spoke during a visit with workers in Le Creusot in the Burgundy region.

This type of reactor is meant eventually to replace the aging reactors around the world whose designs date from decades ago. The Normandy site is one of only two European Pressurized Reactors in the world already under construction.

The EPR (or US-EPR for the United States specific design) is a third generation pressurized water reactor (PWR) design. It has been designed and developed mainly by Framatome (now Areva NP) and Electricité de France (EDF) in France, and Siemens AG in Germany. This reactor design was first called European Pressurized Reactor, and for a time given the internationalized name Evolutionary Power Reactor, but is now simply named EPR by Areva.

As of 2007, two EPR units were under construction, one each in Finland and France. Two additional units were planned as part of China's tenth economic plan, to start construction in 2009.

The main design objectives of the EPR design are increased safety while providing enhanced economic competitiveness through evolutionary improvements to previous PWR designs scaled up to an electrical power output of 1600 MWe. The reactor can use 5% enriched uranium oxide fuel, optionally with up to 50% mixed uranium plutonium oxide fuel. The EPR is the evolutionary descendant of the Framatome N4 and Siemens Power Generation Division KONVOI reactors.

The EPR design has several active and passive protection measures against accidents:

- Four independent emergency cooling systems, each capable of cooling down the reactor after shutdown (ie. 300% redundancy);
- Leaktight containment around the reactor;
- An extra container and cooling area if a molten core manages to escape the reactor;
- Two-layer concrete wall with total thickness 2.6 meters, designed to withstand impact by aeroplanes and internal overpressure;
- The EPR has a design maximum core damage frequency of 6.1 × 10–7 per plant per year.