atw - International Journal for Nuclear Power | 04.2019


atw Vol. 64 (2019) | Issue 4 ı April

EPR – No Swan Song

Dear reader, At the end of last year, the EPR was already the subject of this editorial. In the course of 2018, the first

EPR to be commissioned worldwide was Taishan, China, one of five Generation III+ nuclear power plants commissioned.

Another identical unit is about to be completed during 2019. Generation III+ reactors combine the technically wellengineered

and successful concepts of power reactor developments of the 1970s to 1990s with additional safety features

and economic improvements.

The EPR, originally known as the “European Pressurized

Reactor”, today known as the “Evolutionary Power

Reactor”, is the most powerful nuclear and power plant in

the world. It is the consistent result of a successful

collaboration of thousands of employees from all areas of

science and technology and companies from several

countries. The EPR has its origins in the successful

construction lines for pressurized water reactors of the

then French Framatome and German Siemens/KWU.

Both nuclear power plant manufacturers, including

predecessor companies, had built and commissioned

around 100 light water reactors since the 1960s. On the

part of Siemens/KWU, the Konvoi plants, Emsland, Isar 2

and Neckar westheim II, which were build between 1982

and 1988/89, in some cases even with a shorter construction

period than planned, deserve particular mention.

On the Framatome side, the N4 plants in Civaux and

Chooz with a gross electrical output of 1561 MW formed a

cornerstone of reactor development.

In the mid-1990s, when the expansion programmes for

nuclear power plants in Western countries were virtually

completed for the time being due to the saturation of the

generation market and the deliberate influence of political

interest groups on the public debate surrounding the

energy industry, the idea of designing a reactor concept for

the 21 st century in a Franco-German cooperation took

shape. Framatome and Siemens as manufacturer as well as

EDF and the companies operating the German nuclear

power plants agreed to develop the “Basic Design” for

the EPR.

The EPR reached its first milestones in Finland and

France in 2005 and 2007 with the launch of the Olkiluoto

3 and Flamanville 3 projects. Germany had ceased to be a

location with the signing of the 2001 nuclear consensus

agreement. It should not be overlooked that project risks

and cost increases for these two plants turned out to be

much higher than expected during the approval phases.

The extent to which individual, location-dependent

reasons have to be taken into account cannot currently be

estimated. It should also not be overlooked that the Taishan

project in China was started four years later and is now in

commercial operation after 9 years of construction, ahead

of the plants in Olkiluoto and Flamanville. Considerable

construction delays seem to be developing into a cultural

problem in western industrial countries.

consumption, this is about 17 % lower than with other

nuclear fuel strategies to date.


Space requirement: The space requirement for the

entire power plant is around 1250 square meters per

megawatt and thus 150 times lower than for freestanding

photovoltaic plants.



Technically projected operating life: 60 years, today

common for existing plants with originally planned

operating lives of 30 to 40 years, i.e. with prospects for

operation beyond that.


The reactor core has a volume of roughly 50 cubic

metres, which is comparable to the volume of a 40-foot

sea container; in other words, the reactor core

continuously generates electricity for the supply of an

EU budget in about 15 cubic centimetres.

Safety and security


Four independent systems ensure safe operation and

also protection in exceptional situations such as earthquakes

and floods, including beyond-design-basis



The core damage frequency for the EPR is in the range

of approx. 10 -7 and thus more than a power of ten, i.e. a

factor of 10 lower than that recommended by the

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for new



A core catcher provides additional protection for

the foundation of the reactor building and would

stabilise it in the reactor building in the event of a core



An internal spraying system is an additional measure to

ensure the long-term integrity of the reactor building in

case of accidents.

Honour to whom honour is due: The EPR, a joint European

development project on the way to late, but not too

late, international success – also beyond the year 2022:

according to the current announcement of the French

President Emmanuel Macron, a decision is to be made

around the year 2022 as to whether further new nuclear

power plants should be built in France on the basis of the

EPR, the German-French cooperation.



Some key figures

on the concept of the EPR reactor:



Avoidance of around 10 million tonnes of carbon

dioxide emissions per year (related to the electricity

mix of countries using nuclear energy worldwide) and

avoidance of further emissions via air and water.


Electricity supply to around 3 million households (with

average EU consumption).


Uranium requirement of around 20 tonnes of enriched

nuclear fuel per year. In terms of natural uranium

Christopher Weßelmann

– Editor in Chief –


EPR – No Swan Song

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