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Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant


Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant

Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant
Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant
Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant is located in France
Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant
Location of Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant within France
Official name Centrale nucléaire du Fessenheim
Country France
Location Fessenheim
Construction began 1970
Commission date January 1, 1978
Operator(s) EDF
Nuclear power station
Reactor type PWR
Power generation
Units operational 2 x 900 MW
Nameplate capacity 1,800 MW
Annual generation 11,679

The Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant is located in the Fessenheim commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France, 15 km (9.3 mi) north east of the Mulhouse urban area,[1] within 1.5 km (0.93 mi) of the border with Germany, and approximately 40 km (25 mi) from Switzerland. Nearly 100,000 people live within 20 km (12 mi) of the plant,[2] which is located in the third most densely populated region in Metropolitan France and in the centre of the European Backbone. As of March 2011, it is the oldest operational nuclear power plant in France.[3][4]

There have been ongoing concerns about the seismic safety of the plant and, following the 2011 Fukushima I nuclear accidents, on March 21 the local Information and Oversight Commission for the plant called for the seismic risk to be re-evaluated based on a 7.2 magnitude earthquake; the plant was originally designed for a 6.7 magnitude earthquake.[4] The Swiss cantons of Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft and Jura have also said that they are to going to ask the French government to suspend the operation of Fessenheim while undertaking a safety review based on the lessons learned from Japan.[5] The German state of Baden-Württemberg has called for a temporary closure in line with the 3-month shutdown of pre-1981 plants ordered in Germany.[6] On March 29 the Franche-Comté Regional Council went further and voted for the plant to be closed, the first time a French Regional Council has passed such a vote.[7] On April 6 the Grand Council of Basel-Stadt also voted for the plant to be closed[8] as did the council of the Urban Community of Strasbourg on April 12.[9][10] The European Parliament's Green members are also supporting the closure demands and are referring the matter to the European Commission.[11] Around 3,800 people demonstrated near the plant on April 8; a larger demonstration is expected on April 25.[12] The group Stop Fessenheim have collected over 63,000 signatures through an online petition calling for Fessenheim's closure,[13] and, on April 18, began a 366-day 'fasting relay' outside the préfecture office in Colmar.[14]

Following François Hollande's victory in the 2012 Presidential Election, it is expected that he will order the plant's closure, probably by 2017.[15]


The Fessenheim plant has two pressurized water reactors, each generating 900 MWe. Construction at Fessenheim began in 1970 and the plant was commissioned in 1977.[16] It is built alongside the Grand Canal d'Alsace, a canal channelling the Upper Rhine river, from which it draws 2.5 km3 (0.60 cu mi) of cooling water annually.[17]

The plant permanently employs around 700 staff and 200 contractors,[18] and indirectly supports a further 600 to 2,000 people during maintenance operations. The plant contributes around 16,000,000 euro in tax to the various local authorities, including providing the commune of Fessenheim with 70% of its revenue.[19]

In October 2009 the plant's third 10-yearly inspection on reactor 1 began, in advance of a decision on whether the plant can continue to operate for a further decade.[2] A full decision is expected in 2011, but permission to restart reactor 1 in the interim has been given.[20] The second reactor is due to be shut down for inspection from mid April 2011.[21] The local Information and Oversight Commission has asked GSIEN to conduct a parallel independent inspection alongside the official inspection by the Nuclear Safety Authority.[22]

Selected incidents and accidents

  • On September 5, 2012, Eight employees working on the nuclear site Fessenheim in Alsace, were victims of an incident . The cause of their injuries was a release of hydrogen peroxide vapor, "following the injection of hydrogen peroxide in a tank," said Europe 1 prefecture of Haut-Rhin.
  • On April 10, 2011, operator error led to one of the reactors automatically shutting down. The incident had no further consequences and was rated at 'level 1' on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES).[23]
  • On December 27, 2009, a 'level 1' incident on the INES occurred when plant matter was drawn into the Essential Service Water System intake, reducing the flow rate, although the flow remained sufficient to avoid endangering the security of the plant.[24]
  • On January 24, 2004, the water in the primary circuit water of Unit 1 was contaminated by radioactive resin from a system used to filter out boron, quickly blocking several filters and endangering the integrity of the joints on the pumps.[25][26] Seven EDF employees inhaled radioactive dust during the replacement of the filters, and another was slightly irradiated during the clean-up the following month.[25] The incident was categorised at 'level 1' on the INES.[27]


Due to its location, the Fessenheim plant is subject to particular risks from seismic activity and flooding, and there is an ongoing debate about the adequacy of its design in these respects.


Fessenheim's location in the Rhine Rift Valley near the fault that caused the 1356 Basel earthquake has led to safety concerns.

The majority of the Haut-Rhin département, including Fessenheim, is classified as being in a zone of moderate seismicity; however, the southern third is in a medium-risk zone.[28] The most recent earthquake in this zone, with a magnitude 4.7, took place in this southern third at Sierentz in July 1980.[29] The last major earthquake in the region was the 1356 Basel earthquake, estimated to have had a Mw magnitude of up to 7.1.[30]

A report commissioned by the Swiss canton of Basel-Stadt, published in 2007, concluded that the previous seismic evaluations undertaken by both EDF and, to a lesser extent, by the Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire (Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety Institute, IRSN) had underestimated the risks involved.[30] In particular, although the location of the fault in the Rhine Rift Valley that led to the 1356 Basel earthquake was sufficiently well known for national and regional purposes, its location was not known precisely enough to evaluate a particular site.[30] Studies conducted by other scientists have, for example, reached different conclusions about which faults might have been involved in the 1356 earthquake, its magnitude (ranging from 6.0 to 7.1 on the moment magnitude scale), and the distance from the fault to the plant (ranging from 2 km (1.2 mi) to 40 km (25 mi) away, compared to the distances of 34 km (21 mi) and 29 km (18 mi) used by EDF and the IRSN respectively).[30] EDF also failed to take into account the possibility of a moderate local earthquake, which may have the potential to do greater damage than one which is larger but more distant, and the report was also critical of some aspects of the RFS 2001-01 assessment requirements.[30] The report found that the design standards in force when the plant was built were similar to those that apply to present-day public buildings: the plant had been designed to accommodate movement, but it was not possible to determine whether or not the safety margins used would be adequate if a more realistic seismic evaluation were to be used.[30]

On March 11, 2011 the local Information and Oversight Commission announced that it was commissioning two independent second opinions, to be delivered as soon as possible, one on 'the safety of the plant in the event of an earthquake of magnitude 7.2, corresponding to the new seismic reference point proposed by the Swiss experts', the other on the 'redundancy of the cooling systems' in case of flooding.[31] GSIEN has been commissioned to produce one of the reports.[32]


Although situated around 8 m (26 ft)[33] below the level of the adjacent Grand Canal d'Alsace, it is not clear whether, taking into account the calculation methods in the 1960s, the design took adequate account the consequences of a breach in the canal. In its initial report following the 1999 Blayais Nuclear Power Plant flood, the Institute for Nuclear Protection and Safety (now part of the Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety Institute) called for the risk of flooding at Fessenheim to be re-examined due to the presence of the canal.[34]

On March 11, 2011 the local Information and Oversight Commission announced that it has commissioned an urgent report on the 'redundancy of the cooling systems' in case of flooding[31] and that another report 'to determine the areas to strengthen to guarantee the safety of the plant in the event of a breach in the canal', which had already started, is expected in June 2011.[35]


The station is built on top of a large aquifer, contamination of which would be very harmful. A concrete slab is built below the reactor in order to reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of polluting the aquifer.[36]


Opposition to the Fessenheim plant dates back to the 1970s when its construction was proposed, and in June 1977 the pirate radio station Radio Verte Fessenheim (Green Radio Fessenheim) began broadcasting against the plant.[37]

Although the plant was built with a 40 year operational life, on the plant's 30th anniversary, the anti nuclear group sortir du nucléaire called for the plant's immediate closure. The Tri-national Nuclear Protection Action Group ATPN (Action Tri nationale de Protection Nucléaire), with members from France, Germany and Switzerland is also campaigning for the plant to be closed and in 2008 it unsuccessfully applied to the Strasbourg Administrative Tribunal (Tribunal Administratif de Strasbourg) to order its closure.[38] On March 9, 2011, a further application to close the plant because of the seismic, flooding and other risks was rejected by the tribunal.[39][40]

A local association called Stop Fessenheim was formed in October 2005 and registered in the Canton of Munster, after having operated informally since 2004.[41]

Despite regional concern over the plant in the aftermath of Fukushima, nuclear power remains popular in the commune of Fessenheim itself, where the plant has brought prosperity and employs many locals.[42]

Popular culture

See also


  1. ^ Calculez la distance a vol d'oiseau entre toutes les villes de France - Distance between Ruelisheim-Fessenheim
  2. ^ a b Aire Urbaine | La centrale de Fessenheim est-elle à l’abri d’un accident majeur ? Le Pays, 2011-03-15, accessed 2011-04-13
  3. ^ Spotlight on France’s oldest nuclear plant euronews, published 2011-03-25
  4. ^ a b Séisme, inondation : la pression monte à Fessenheim Le Moniteur published 2011-03-24, accessed 2011-03-30
  5. ^ Trois cantons suisses demandent l'arrêt de la centrale nucléaire de Fessenheim Associated Press on Yahoo!, published 2011-03-30, accessed 2011-03-30
  6. ^ Atomkraft: Fessenheim bereitet dem Land Sorgen Stuttgarter Nachrichten, published 2011-03-23, accessed 2011-04-06
  7. ^ Les conseillers généraux de Franche-Comté votent une motion pour la fermeture de la centrale nucléaire de Fessenheim dans le Haut-Rhin La Tribune, published 2011-03-29, accessed 2011-03-30
  8. ^ Le Grand Conseil de Bâle-Ville exige l’arrêt de la centrale de Fessenheim LeMatin, published 2011-04-06, accessed 2011-04-06
  9. ^ Le conseil municipal de Strasbourg pour la fermeture de la centrale de Fessenheim Le Monde, published 2011-04-12, accessed 2011-04-13
  10. ^ Jacques Bigot veut faire de Fessenheim une référence mondiale sur la fin de vie du nucléaire published 2011-04-12, accessed 2011-04-13
  11. ^ Nucléaire: les Verts européens veulent faire de Fessenheim un "site pilote" Le Parisien, published 2011-04-06, accessed 2011-04-06
  12. ^ Des milliers de manifestants demandent l'arrêt de la centrale de Fessenheim Le Monde, published 2011-04-11, accessed 2011-04-12
  13. ^ Arrêter Fessenheim ! Stop Fessenheim, accessed 2011-04-13
  14. ^ Alsace | Un jeûne de 366 jours pour obtenir l’arrêt de la centrale de Fessenheim L'Alsace, published 2011-04-19, accessed 2011-04-19
  15. ^ Présidentielle : Hollande confirme sa volonté de fermer Fessenheim France Soir, published 2012-05-02, accessed 2012-05-08
  16. ^ La centrale de Fessenheim Autorité de sûreté nucléaire, accessed 2009-05-17
  17. ^ Eléments de diagnostic de la partie française Agence de l'Eau Rhin Meuse, published April 2005, accessed 2011-03-30
  18. ^ Nucléaire: une année de grands travaux en 2011 à Fessenheim (Haut-Rhin) Décideurs en Région, published 2011, accessed 2011-04-13
  19. ^ Faut-il fermer Fessenheim -, published 2006-03-31.
  20. ^ French Nuclear Watchdog Plans Fessenheim Decision in ‘Weeks’ Bloomberg, accessed 2011-04-13
  21. ^ Fessenheim: début lundi de la visite décennale du réacteur N°2 (syndicats) le Parisien, published 2011-04-13, accessed 2011-04-13
  22. ^ GSIEN - Groupement des scientifiques pour l'information sur l'énergie nucléaire Réseau national de mesures de la radioactivité de l'environnement, accessed 2011-04-11
  23. ^ Centrale de Fessenheim: une manœuvre cause un incident nucléaire de niveau 1 Tribune de Genève, published 2011-04-08, accessed 2011-04-12
  24. ^ Communiqué n°2 à 17h15 - Incident en voie de résolution à la centrale nucléaire de Fessenheim, published 2009-12-27, accessed 2011-03-30
  25. ^ a b Incident à la centrale de Fessenheim IRSN, published 2004-02-10 accessed 2011-03-30
  27. ^ Les cahiers de GLOBAL CHANCE - N° 25 - septembre 2008 Global Chance, published September 2008, accessed 2011-03-30
  28. ^ Quatre centrales sur une zone sismique Les quatre éléments published 2011-03-15, accessed 2011-04-13
  29. ^ Le risque sismique
  30. ^ a b c d e f Centrale Nucléaire de Fessenheim : appréciation du risque sismique RÉSONANCE Ingénieurs-Conseils SA, published 2007-09-05, accessed 2011-03-30
  31. ^ a b Centrale de Fessenheim : la CLIS demande deux nouvelles contre-expertises Le Parisien, published 2011-04-11, accessed 2011-04-11
  32. ^ Alsace | Fessenheim : contre- expertises et nouvelles études L'Alsace, published 2011-04-11, accessed 2011-04-11
  33. ^ Le risque d'inondation de la centrale à Fessenheim sera réévalué Nouvelobs, published 2011-04-11, accessed 2011-04-13
  34. ^ Rapport sur l'inondation du site du Blayais survenue le 27 décembre 1999 Institute for Nuclear Protection and Safety, published 2000-01-17, accessed 2011-03-21
  35. ^ Fessenheim : contre-expertises demandées France 3, published 2011-04-11, accessed 2011-04-11
  36. ^ Prof. François Lévêque (30 September 2013). "French early plant closure and nuclear cutbacks". EU Energy Policy blog. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  37. ^ Teil 11: Internationale Rundfunk- und Fernseh-Chronik Internationale Rundfunk und Fernseh-Chronik, accessed 2011-04-14
  38. ^ Rejet du recours demandant la fermeture de la centrale nucléaire de Fessenheim Actu-environnement, 29/10/2008.
  39. ^ N°0805582 TRIBUNAL ADMINISTRATIF DE STRASBOURG N°0805582 accessed 2011-03-30
  40. ^ Fessenheim sur une faille sismique published 2011-03-13, accessed 2011-03-30
  41. ^ Qui sommes nous / Adhésion Stop Fessenheim, accessed 2011-04-13
  42. ^ A Fessenheim, la doyenne du nucléaire français ne fait visiblement pas peur aux riverains La Tribune published 2011-03-18, accessed 2011-03-18
  43. ^ The Enforcer Script - Dialogue Transcript (archive page), accessed 2011-04-15

External links

  • Fessenheim, Nuclear Engineering International wall chart, September 1975
  • (English) France 24: The nuclear plant that Germans want to shut down - in France (video)
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