The nuclear safety authority (ASN) has been alerted to the presence of several falsely qualified welders on the site of the international experimental reactor Iter, in Cadarache (Bouches-du-Rhône), we learned Tuesday from the nuclear gendarme in France.
According to a letter dated 4 May and published on its website, ASN was informed "in March of the detection of falsification of welders' qualifications" at this research site.
It was the management of Iter itself that brought to the attention of ASN "the discovery of falsifications in the qualification certificates concerning welders working on the construction site", said ASN, confirming information from the Canard enchaîné to be published on Wednesday.
No "direct impact"
In its letter of 4 May, ASN asked the Iter Organization to "specify the extent of the falsifications brought to light and their possible impact on activities involving equipment important for safety". According to the first elements of this analysis, and "subject to the additional information expected, no direct impact has been identified such as a lack of competence on the part of stakeholders or a non-compliant activity carried out", says ASN.
With this case, ASN insists on "the importance, for operators, of rigorously carrying out their activities of monitoring stakeholders and technical control of the sites carried out".
For its part, "Iter has taken immediate action not only to remove this particular provider, but also to disqualify all welds performed by these individuals and to conduct a full assessment of all welding certifications, site-wide," said Laban Coblentz, site communications manager.
"Very strong tensions" on the trades
According to ASN, "the risk of irregularity may be aggravated by the current context of very strong tensions in the welding trades, which lead service providers and their employees to face very high demand, and principals to seek professionals beyond their usual partners".
These labour shortages come at a time when the country is preparing to revive nuclear power and EDF is conducting a vast program of verification and repair of welds at risk of cracks on emergency pipes.
A colossal project that aims to revolutionize energy production, with less radioactive waste and without the risk of a nuclear accident, the Iter nuclear fusion reactor is facing construction hazards that could cause a delay of several years.