The French regulator, Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN) is planning a more thorough investigation into the Areva nuclear power company as concerns about part quality and documentation remain.

There is a particular focus on whether a practice of falsifying documents, or cutting corners on document accuracy, have facilitated poor quality nuclear equipment parts.

David Emond, head of Areva’s component manufacturing business, said that while 70 components with falsified documents had found their way into French nuclear reactors — and 120 into overseas power plants — no safety problems has so far been discovered.

“It was wrong, but it seems to have been more of a cultural problem than a safety-related technical problem,” he said.

The situation is compounded by issues uncovered relating to the nuclear reactor to be used at the EDF-owned Flamanville nuclear power plant in France. A two year-long investigation is to conclude with the presentation of a report to the ASN in the coming weeks.

According to a report in the FT, if the structural weaknesses initially found on the reactor vessel are as serious as feared it could have an effect on the development of the Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor in the UK.Julien Collet

EDF’s British plant is set to use the same technology as its sister plant and the financial support package the UK government has offered for Hinkley is premised on Flamanville being operational by 2020.

Any significant problems with the Flamanville reactor vessel would mean restarting much of the construction work in France, which is already billions of euros over budget and years late.

The focus of that part of the investigation is Areva’s component factory at Le Creusot where some steel components— notably parts used in steam generators — were found to have excessive carbon levels, which could make them vulnerable to cracking.

Julien Collet (above right), deputy director of the ASN, France’s nuclear regulator, said he wanted to “go much further” with investigations into Areva’s components.

The ASN ordered a halt to operations at 18 plants for a short time after the discovery of high carbon levels in components made at the facility. The ASN also said some of the components with high carbon levels were supplied by Japan Casting and Forging Corporation, acting as a subcontractor to Areva.

All the plants have since been allowed to restart, and the ASN and EDF have said there are no safety concerns.