Update on Quality Assurance Issues in France

David McIntyre
Public Affairs Officer

Today, the NRC is releasing information about large reactor components supplied to U.S. nuclear plants by AREVA’s Creusot Forge in France. This information includes the names of the plants and the reactor components involved.

This blog post discusses the information as well as the NRC’s actions related to ongoing French investigations into potential defects and problems with quality assurance documents regarding the parts’ manufacture.

We are confident at this time that there are no safety concerns for U.S. nuclear power plants raised by the investigations in France. Our confidence is based on the U.S. material qualification process, preliminary structural evaluations of reactor components under scrutiny in France, U.S. material aging-management programs, our participation in a multinational inspection of Creusot Forge, and information supplied by AREVA about the documentation anomalies. Also, the components supplied to U.S. plants have performed well and inspections during their operating life have revealed no safety issues.

Because there are no immediate safety concerns, there is no justification for the NRC to order plants to shut down and inspect components, as some groups have suggested. Should new information raise a specific safety concern, the agency will take appropriate action.

The information released today ML17009a275 was provided to the NRC on Dec. 15 at our request by AREVA, a multinational manufacturer of nuclear plant components.  We informed AREVA on Dec. 30 of our intent to make the information public (ML16364A034). Attachment A lists components with forgings from Creusot Forge supplied to 17 U.S. reactors at 13 sites, directly by AREVA or through third-party vendors. The components are mostly replacement reactor vessel heads, replacement steam generator components or pressurizers. AREVA clarified the list in letters dated Jan. 9 and Jan. 10, which are included in the information.

We posted a piece last June about the investigation by the French Nuclear Safety Agency, ASN, into AREVA’s Creusot Forge. Here is an update:

There are two separate, but related, issues to the investigation in France. The first is called “carbon segregation,” a condition that in certain circumstances could create local areas of reduced toughness in large forged components of nuclear plants. The second is a series of anomalies discovered in the quality assurance documentation of components manufactured at Creusot Forge.

Carbon segregation occurs naturally during the casting of steel ingots. Carbon molecules concentrate as newly forged ingots cool. Most of this excess carbon is cut away and discarded before the actual plant components are formed, but some processes leave small areas of elevated carbon content near the component’s surface. NRC regulations and code requirements by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers account for this condition. Higher-than-expected carbon segregation has been discovered on some reactor components in France that were manufactured using a particular process, though there are no indications it would exceed U.S. limits. We’ve asked AREVA if any components supplied to U.S. reactors were manufactured using that same process, and we expect the company’s answer soon.

While investigating the carbon segregation issue, ASN discovered anomalies in the documents describing how components were manufactured at Creusot Forge. This probe, launched last May, has since expanded to include a review of documents dating back to 1965. (AREVA acquired Creusot Forge in 2006.)

Two NRC inspectors participated in an inspection of the Creusot Forge facility in late November/early December. The inspection team included inspectors from France, the United Kingdom, Finland, China and Canada, and was conducted under the Multinational Design Evaluation Programme, which facilitates information exchanges among nations. During the inspection, AREVA reported that some files on components supplied to U.S. nuclear plants contained anomalies. The company said the anomalies presented no apparent safety concerns.

The NRC inspectors conducted a preliminary review of records for three U.S. plants and agreed that AREVA had made a reasonable assessment of no safety concerns.

The ASN, which led the inspection, is expected to issue a report on its findings in the next several weeks. Meanwhile, AREVA filed an interim report to the NRC on Dec. 7 (ML16344A120), providing more information about document anomalies affecting some U.S. plants. AREVA said it had notified its U.S. customers (including nuclear power plants and vendors) of the documentation issues and its assessment that there are no related safety concerns. The company said it expects to complete its evaluation of Creusot Forge’s documentation processes for U.S. plants by June 30, 2017.

We are not taking this issue lightly. Complete and accurate documentation provides assurance that components were forged to the proper procedures and specifications. As the investigation continues, we remain alert to any indication that the documentation irregularities at Creusot Forge might call into question the safety of these components and U.S. nuclear plants.


Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

17 thoughts on “Update on Quality Assurance Issues in France”

  1. The list names parts identified by AREVA with forgings from Creusot Forge, not every part supplied over the years by AREVA. Davis-Besse’s absence from the list indicates its replacement reactor pressure vessel head did not contain forgings from Creusot Forge.

    Dave McIntyre, Office of Public Affairs

  2. I don’t see on the list Davis Besse Nuclear Power Plant. The reactor pressure vessel head has been replaced in 2003 due to corrosion degradations. The replacement vessel head has been provided by AREVA (or FRAMATOME which was the previous name of Areva).

  3. Observation: Only the most naively gullible would believe that the Le Creusot Forge Areva Document Falsifiers were “a few bad apples.”

  4. http://www.wsj.com/articles/problems-at-nuclear-components-supplier-spark-global-reviews-1481625005

    “A string of discoveries triggered the newly expanded review: First, French investigators said they found steel components made at Le Creusot and used in nuclear-power plants across France had excess carbon levels, making them more vulnerable to rupture. Then, the investigators discovered files suggesting Le Creusot employees for decades had concealed manufacturing problems involving hundreds of components sold to customers around the world.”-WSJ

  5. Did the document anomalies include falsification, fabrication, doctoring, deception, concealment and/or the like?

  6. Observation: Often the harmful conditions, behaviors, actions, and/or inactions that comprise the causation of harm include at least some that are apparently indicative of incompetence, lack of integrity, noncompliance, and/or lack of transparency, not to mention neglect, ignorance, stupidity, short-sightedness, greed, miserliness, sloth, wrongdoing, and other dysfunctionality. Thus, the mere revelation of the causation is seen as embarrassing, threatening, and/or punishing. Thus there is always an incentive for the accountable persons to support the revelation of as little as possible. Investigators are often complicit, possibly being sensitive to the roles of their customers, clients , colleagues, and/or superiors. Regulators often allow this, possibly being sensitive to their own roles in the causation.

    Quotation: “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”-Plato

  7. This week the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a list of U.S. reactors that may contain parts made by Areva that have potential defects and problems with quality assurance documents regarding the parts’ manufacture. The components named are mostly replacement reactor vessel heads, replacement steam generator components or pressurizers.
    The NRC stated it has no immediate safety concerns regarding the potentially defective parts from Creusot Forge, and they were supplied to 17 reactors in 13 U.S. sites, directly by Areva or through third-party vendors.
    The reactors identified this week are as follows:
    FirstEnergy’s Beaver Valley 1
    Luminant’s Comanche Peak 1
    Scana’s VC Summer
    Southern’s Farley 1, 2
    STP’s South Texas 1, 2
    TVA’s Sequoyah 1
    TVA’s Watts Bar 1
    Entergy’s ANO 2
    Dominion’s North Anna 1, 2
    Dominion’s Surry 1
    Dominion’s Millstone 2
    NextEra’s St. Lucie 1
    Xcel Energy Prairie Island 1, 2

  8. The NRC’s examination of the evidence to this point indicates all of these components are functioning safely and will continue to do so. The NRC requires all U.S. nuclear power plants to inspect and maintain safety-related components to ensure any potential degradation is resolved before it can present a safety concern.

    Scott Burnell

  9. The NRC expects to receive the French regulator’s inspection results from multinational inspection of Creusot Forge in a few weeks. AREVA expects by June to complete its records review and supplement its information for U.S. nuclear power plants as required under NRC regulations for reporting defects and noncompliances. The NRC staff will independently examine all this information in determining what document anomalies exist as well as any anomaly’s significance. Neither the inspection nor the initial AREVA report to the NRC have identified a nuclear safety concern.

    Scott Burnell

  10. The NRC should order the licensees to independently resample the forging?

    Mike Mulligan
    Hinsdale, NH

  11. It would help the public if the design of pressurized parts-pipes, reactor vessels, tanks. etc. is explained.Under the 150+ year old American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Code these components are designed to be tested at 1 1/2 times design pressure when built and 110% after repairs, PLUS there is allowance in the metal thickness for corrosion, and wear away. The design also includes the worst case earthquake for the location, and enough metal for all the years in operation, and radiation damage. The safety margin must be met on the last day of all the years of life. PLUS components are inspected periodically during their lifetime. With all this margin (fat) built in the pressure at which a part will fail is 3 or more times the operating pressure. The design code has the safety margin built in to cover unknowns, such as these small manufacturing defects. This is why time can be taken for investigation while plants keep operating.

    Designing with margin for unknowns is a basic principle in everything – your house, car tires etc.

  12. David : Why don’t you assure us the concerned citizens if these components in any way vulnerable to IGC/IGSACC or these carbon segregation at grain boundaries could render these components to sensitization when used in reactor environment ?

  13. ‘Looks like an advertisement,’ says the suburban housewife in me. Sigh. How many words? 500 or less screams the editor! Dang, is this article really important or is it just saying everything’s ok, only #fuqafukushima and maybe #Chernobyl are still actively melting down beyond our control … #rantingover thanks for the blog and 411 for the smarter peeps than me! #wearestillalive phew <3nikiV

  14. What is a “document anomaly?”

    What specific document anomalies are involved?

    What are the harmful conditions, behaviors, actions, and inactions that resulted in each document anomaly?

    What are the harmful conditions, behaviors, actions, and inactions that resulted in the number of document anomalies?

    What were the conditions, behaviors, actions, and inactions that resulted in the discovery of each document anomaly?

    What were the harmful conditions, behaviors, actions, and inactions that resulted in the earlier non-discovery of each document anomaly?

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