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Areva NP hopes to restart Creusot Forge foundry in coming weeks

Kitco News

* Creusot Forge already produced some Hinkley Point parts

* Awaits ASN approval to restart French production

* Areva NP says audits went well, confident of restart

By Geert De Clercq

LONDON, Sept 15 (Reuters) - French nuclear reactor maker Areva NP hopes to get regulator ASN's approval in coming weeks to restart its Creusot Forge foundry, which was halted last year following the discovery of manufacturing problems and falsified documents.

Creusot Forge in eastern France started producing some components in July for two planned reactors in Hinkley Point, western England, without objections from British nuclear regulator ONR and hopes to restart commercial production for the French utility EDF's nuclear fleet soon.

"In the coming weeks, in cooperation with the ASN and EDF, we will propose the restart of activities for the French fleet," Areva NP chief executive Bernard Fontana told Reuters at the World Nuclear Association conference in London.

Fontana said the restart was the ASN's call but added that a series of audits had gone well and that the firm was confident the foundry can resume commercial production.

As part of a government-funded rescue, reactor maker Areva NP will be split off from former integrated nuclear group Areva SA and will be bought by state-owned utility EDF, its main customer. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

Fontana said that Areva NP aims to make Creusot Forge a leading nuclear foundry again, able to make the biggest components, including nuclear reactor pressure vessels, which so far have been forged in Japan.

Fontana said the top and bottom of the reactor vessels for the two Hinkley Point reactors are produced by Japan Steel Works , but that future vessels for its flagship European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) reactor would be made by Creusot Forge.

"We are confident that Creusot will become a top nuclear foundry again," he said.

The Hinkley Point reactor vessels are currently being assembled at Areva NP's Saint-Marcel plant, which will also assemble the UK reactors' steam generators.

Earlier this year, a top ASN official told Reuters that Creusot Forge's equipment was inadequate to make large nuclear components, which had contributed to the problems with carbon segration in the reactor cover and base of the EPR reactor EDF is building in Flamanville, northern France.

In June, the ASN ruled that the flawed cover was fit for service, but that it would have to be replaced by 2024. EDF hopes to start the long-delayed Flamanville reactor late next year, although the ASN has said that schedule is tight.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Keith Weir)

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