Prosecutors investigate allegations of fraud at one of France’s oldest nuclear power plants
French prosecutors are investigating allegations that nuclear power plant officials covered up incidents of malfunction at the aging Tricastin plant in the south-east of the country.
Prosecutors respond to a complaint filed end of 2021 against nuclear operator EDF by a whistleblower engineer who said he repeatedly alerted the company to several cases, including an unexplained power surge at one of the reactors in 2017 and flooding inside the plant the next year.
The sniper, unidentified and nicknamed “Hugo”, said EDF had not reported the incidents to the National Nuclear Safety Agency.
An investigating judge in the southern port city of Marseille is currently investigating the power plant for fraud and “endangering the lives of others”.
The engineer, who had worked for EDF since 2004, became an executive in 2016 and, according to the complaint, he saw management become “particularly tense” over the ten-yearly inspection which would determine whether the plant could continue to operate. operate beyond its 40-year limit.
Built in 1981, Tricastin is one of the oldest nuclear power plants in France and is on a list of installations which, according to the ASN agency, could be refurbished to extend their lifespan for another decade.
The prosecutor is also investigating other alleged violations, including environmental damage through the leaking of toxic substances, obstruction of inspections and workplace harassment of the engineer, who says he was sidelined after have sounded the alarm bell.
The investigation comes as EDF faces serious problems at its nuclear facilities.
The French state owns more than 80% of EDF, which operates 56 reactors across the country and produces around 70% of the country’s electricity.
The company has been forced to check many of its nuclear facilities after discovering corrosion on high-pressure pipes, leading to breakdowns and repairs that the company says will cost it 4.5 billion euros, be more than expected.
Currently, operations at 12 of France’s 56 nuclear reactors are shut down due to corrosion issues, EDF said last month.
In February, President Emmanuel Macron called for a “rebirth” of the nuclear industry in France, announcing the construction of 14 new power plants as part of the abandonment of fossil fuels.