COVID-19 OUTBREAKFORATOM statement
Nuclear power plants continue to provide Europe with a stable and secure electricity supply during the COVID-19 outbreak
Amid the outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe, the European nuclear industry is doing its utmost to keep Europe’s lights on by providing Europeans and industry with a stable and secure supply of low-carbon electricity where and when it’s needed.
In these challenging times, nuclear power plants have an essential role to play in ensuring that electricity supplies are maintained at the required level. This objective is being achieved while securing the highest level of safety both for the nuclear workforce and plants. The overall operation of all nuclear reactors continues without any impact on the supply of electricity and the European nuclear fleet is currently responsible for generating almost 1/3 of electricity in the European Union – among others thanks to nuclear energy’s capacity factor which is the highest of all available energy sources (85-90%) and the fact that nuclear reactors do not require continuous fuel supplies to operate.
In response to the ongoing outbreak, operators of nuclear power plants in Europe have implemented dedicated continuity plans and various preventive measures to protect the health of their workforce and secure their facilities’ safe and continuous operation. These actions are carried out in close coordination with national regulators and authorities and their results are constantly monitored and supervised and – if needed – adjusted to ongoing developments.
Apart from providing a stable supply of electricity, the European nuclear industry does its best to help European countries limit the spread of the virus as well as minimize its effects.
In these difficult and challenging circumstances, FORATOM would like to thank the whole nuclear workforce which is committed to continuing its work and providing electricity despite all the difficulties. We are grateful and we want to emphasise that your everyday efforts are very much appreciated.
In close cooperation with its members, FORATOM monitors the latest nuclear-related developments in each country:
- Exemplary measures introduced by European nuclear operators:
- Introducing various solutions to ensure that workers’ health is not endangered (protective equipment, social distancing, additional shifts),
- Implementing – if possible – alternative working methods or limiting the number of workers,
- Implementation of business continuity plans to ensure the continuing operation of essential facilities,
- Allowing only essential activities and essential staff to be present at sites,
- Operations are being halted at some facilities where necessary or deemed appropriate to prevent the spread of the virus and protect workers,
- Maintenance operations continue as long as all conditions for ensuring the safety of employees are met,
- Regular evaluation of the strategy, assessing the risks and – if needed – modification of the implemented strategy,
- Close cooperation with national regulators and authorities.
- Examples of nuclear industry’s contribution to fighting the COVID-19 outbreak:
- Donating personal protective suits from nuclear power plants and other equipment (masks) to health authorities,
- Special grants for activities aimed at combating the epidemic,
- Financial support of hospitals, police, administrations and other entities fighting the outbreak,
- Working with national authorities or increasing testing capacity,
- Launching production of face masks and hand sanitizers,
- In some cases, companies are offering free electricity in places such as hospital hotels,
FORATOM members on COVID-19
European countries with nuclear energy
The operator of the Belgian nuclear power plants has introduced all the necessary measures to guarantee the highest level of safety at all its facilities and security of energy supply. A sufficient number of workers are available in all circumstances to carry out all the required and critical activities at the nuclear power stations. In addition, a significant part of staff (those who can) have been delegated to work from home. All non-urgent meetings, activities and training sessions have been postponed. The facilities’ cleaning frequency has been increased. Permanent staffing at the internal medical service and availability of a duty nurse and doctor at any time have been guaranteed.
In Belgium, the entire nuclear sector has been recognized by the governmental COVID-19 working group as a critical sector, therefore its operation continues. In addition, dedicated business continuity plans have been put in place for a long time in the (Belgian) NPPs to deal with the crisis (of any type). All the introduced measures are based on the directives of the government and the ENGIE Group, as well as on opinions of experts of their internal occupation service.
The research site in Mol remains physically accessible amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The organisation guarantees the highest level of security to its own staff by implementing stringent guidelines against the spread of COVID-19, such as allowing only the workforce whose presence is essential to enter the facility. Non-essential facilities have been closed preventively with exceptional access guaranteed for suppliers. SCK CEN follows all the general guidelines introduced by the government.
In addition, SCK CEN participates in the work carried out by the governmental Task Force aiming at expanding the currently available testing capacity. To this end, SCK CEN handed its special equipment to support the TF. Apart from that, the SCK CEN employees have launched the production of face masks and hand sanitizers in order to alleviate shortages in the Belgian healthcare sector.
On the sites of nuclear power plants as well as in other nuclear companies in Belgium, 20,000 employees work constantly to guarantee the continuity of electricity generation, as well as the production of medical isotopes and all other applications where nuclear is used.
Business continuity plans, which are now being implemented, have been developed and approved long time ago in the nuclear sector, in order to guarantee the continuation of operation in the times we’re facing today.
Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant
The operator of the Kozloduy NPP (sole nuclear power plant in Bulgaria) has implemented all the necessary measures to protect the health of all its employees and ensure the nuclear facilities’ safe operation and reliable power supply. All plant activities have backup-teams procedures and social distancing rules have been put in place. In addition, a dedicated special personal protective equipment (face masks and gloves) is now mandatory and has been provided for the whole personnel at the site. Also, access to workplaces is permitted only after going through a special body temperature monitoring procedure. Strict hygiene is maintained, and meticulous disinfection is performed on a regular basis in all the sanitary facilities and workplaces.
All the introduced measurements are in line with various decrees and regulations issued by Bulgaria’s national authorities in response to the outbreak. Given the dynamic with which the situation evolves, the Kozloduy NPP continuously updates the list of applicable measures to limit risks associated with the outbreak.
For the moment, all planned activities at the NPP (such as the annual outage) will be performed as scheduled.
In addition, the Kozloduy NPP participates actively in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak at national level for example by providing funds and purchasing materials to support hospitals, emergency medical care and all frontline personnel (healthcare workers, police, administration staff, etc.).
Bulatom has introduced special measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. All its employees work from home and the organisation is in constant contact with all its members, which follow all the regulations introduced by the Bulgarian government.
- Kozloduy NPP
- Bulgarian Atomic Forum
CEZ, the operator of two nuclear power plants in the Czech Republic (Dukovany and Temelin) have started implementing a series of preventive measures since the end of February (even before the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Czech Republic). The measures implemented by CEZ are aimed both at protecting the company’s workforce as well as at ensuring the operation of power plants and in result generating electricity.
A dedicated Crisis Team set up by the company has been following closely the development of the situation in the Czech Republic and has been in close contact with national authorities to discuss the introduced measures and report on the latest developments.
The introduced preventive measures include: reorganizing and introducing “isolation” shifts at nuclear facilities in order to minimize the risk of disruption, securing back-up teams for key personnel, mandatory face masks and available hand sanitizers for all CEZ employees, temperature measurement in facilities, more frequent disinfection and cleaning procedures, home office for those employees that can proceed this way and cancellation of all non-essential visits at operating facilities.
The TVO Group, the operator of the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant, has started implementing many preventive measures since the early spring in order to limit the risk caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and to secure electricity generation, as well as finalise the completion of the Olkiluoto 3 project.
Since early March, the group has limit travelling, encourage remote work (if possible), limit visitor access (the visitor centre has been closed and public visit have been cancelled) and reduced the number of planned events and other non-essential activities. In addition, all TVO’s facilities have implemented additional extensive measures regarding cleanliness.
TVO is working closely with key authorities who are notified of the introduced preventive measures at all facilities.
The company has also announced that the annual outage of Olkiluoto 1 will be shortened. Planned to take 25 days, the annual outage will be shortened to approximately 14 days. Major modifications with no significance for safety or availability will be postponed. At the Olkiluoto 2 plant unit, the eight-day fuel replacement outage will be carried out as planned. The annual outage of the OL2 plant unit will be a typical fuel replacement outage. It will start on Sunday, 10 May, ending on Sunday, 18 May. The OL1 annual outage will start on Sunday, 24 May, ending in accordance with the updated plan on Sunday, 7 June.
The Finnish Energy is in constant contact with all nuclear power operators and construction companies in Finland. They also have a nuclear working group and a nuclear communication group – both have regular meetings to discuss the current status of operation and latest developments. In addition, the association is organizing on a weekly basis a dedicated webinar for its members during which it informs and discusses the latest developments. It is also assisting its members with legal advice concerning the impact of COVID-19 on their business activities.
The Finnish Energy is also in constant contact with national authorities in order to discuss on a regular basis issues such as security of energy supply and the situation after the outbreak.
All nuclear power plants’ operators in Finland have introduced various measures in response to the outbreak, such as: limiting access to their facilities, allowing only essential staff to enter, protecting all employees in line with the instructions introduced by health authorities (national and the WHO).
French Nuclear Industry Association (GIFEN)
GIFEN has put in place a number of measures to address the health crisis, namely holding weekly meetings with an Extraordinary Bureau, all respecting required social distancing rules, as well as the Ministry of Economy (DGE) and the Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition (DGEC).
GIFEN regularly issues messages (flashes) to members informing them – particularly – about the aid measures implemented by the government and by major companies in the sector. All members are also invited to contact GIFEN if they have any questions or if they are facing particular challenges.
Among other measures taken by GIFEN, through the French Nuclear Strategic Committee (CSFN), are providing assistance to the smallest structures and organizing weekly meetings within the ministries.
Many GIFEN’s members have introduced various measures to mitigate possible risks caused by the spread of the virus. For example, EDF has drawn up a Charter on nuclear power plants (CNPE); measures that are identical to the ones introduced at Orano’s sites and by other major companies in the sector.
Some work on the sites of the major companies in the sector has been postponed. In addition, many companies have introduced teleworking where possible and, in some cases, the imposition of holiday leave. Several GIFEN members are experiencing a decrease in their activity and have had to apply for short time working.
As far as the future of some projects are concerned, some maintenance and modification work on EDF’s nuclear power plants (CNPE) will be postponed. For Orano, the production of UP3 at La Hague has restarted, in addition to other activities that remained ongoing during the containment. Also, decommissioning activities are gradually being restarted.
Companies, from the French nuclear sector, have also contributed to the fight against the virus at national level, for example the CEA has donated 185,000 FFP2 masks and more than 810,000 surgical masks to neighboring health centers, research organisations, and municipalities.
EDF has implemented its “Business continuity plan” in all nuclear power plants in France (prepared also based on lessons learnt from SARS and H1N1). The plan’s implementation makes it possible to operate NPPs even if 40% of staff are absent. EDF staff, whose work can be carried out remotely from home, are encouraged to do so. Those workers, whose activities are linked to safety, security, monitoring environmental monitoring and production, are authorised to be onsite. Maintenance operations continue as long as all conditions for ensuring the safety of employees are met. Special nuclear teams (force d’action rapide nucléaire), established at EDF following the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident, can be mobilised if necessary to ensure the safety of installations, staff and the environment.
Faced with the Covid-19 epidemic, the Orano group is taking all steps to safeguard the health of its employees and the safety of its industrial facilities. Throughout the world, the group is doing everything possible for the continuation of its activities which are essential to electricity production.
Taking care of personnel
Faced with the ordeal of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, which is unprecedented for everyone, the Orano group took the measure of this health crisis from the outset, first and foremost with the concern of protecting all its employees. At the end of January, Orano informed its employees of the precautions to be taken in relation to the epidemic unfolding in China. As the situation developed, the group regularly raised awareness among its employees, as well as with service providers, about barrier measures. Protective masks were distributed for all situations requiring their use. Safeguarding everyone’s health in the workplace remains our top priority and we rely on the advice of our doctors in implementing health and safety instructions throughout our sites. New orders have been placed for several million masks and other protective equipment, and in the particularly difficult circumstances facing our hospitals, we have already donated a total of 30,000 masks to hospitals in our regions in France. Moreover, arrangements for an additional allocation of 30,000 masks are being finalized. Protective clothing has also been made available to caregivers, and in the countries where our mines are located, operations to support medical personnel (supplies of equipment, donations, etc.) are being organized in conjunction with local authorities.
Adapting and ensuring the safety of our sites
This major crisis has required very strong decisions and adaptations to be made from the very beginning of the epidemic: rapid organization on the ground to ensure the nuclear safety of installations and the occupational security of employees, continuation of our activities where protective measures could be implemented, as well as safe interruptions of those not able to meet these conditions, plus set-up of digital resources so that as many people as possible can continue to work remotely.
Continuity of electricity generating capacity
As a result, thanks to the commitment and mobilization of our employees, Orano’s activities necessary for the continued production of electricity have been able to continue in whole or in part. This is the case at the Malvési, Tricastin and Melox sites, for certain activities at La Hague, for engineering, for service activities for some of our customers, including EDF, and for the transport activities that support our operations around the world, as well as for the mines in Niger and Kazakhstan. All these measures were taken without compromising the health and protection of staff or the nuclear safety of our sites.
- French Nuclear Industry Association (GIFEN)
The Paks NPP launched a special Pandemic Management Group immediately after the first cases of COVID-19 had appeared in Europe. The Group gathers high-level representatives of the company and meets daily in order to exchange information about the latest developments, planned activities, as well as to assess any potential risks and evaluates planned preventive actions. Based on the Hungarian government’s decision, the Paks NPP is under constant military supervision, which provides support.
In addition, in response to the outbreak and in order to limit its potential risks, all administrative staff were instructed to switch to a “home office” mode. All educational and training activities at the site have been suspended. In the current situation, the top priority is given to maintaining the operation of the NPP in order to guarantee security of energy supply. Apart from that, extensive disinfection measures have been introduced in all premises at Paks. The work of the staff at the site has been reorganized to minimize any infection risks between the shifts. All the essential maintenance activities at the NPP are being carried out as planned as they are essential for maintaining the safe operation of NPPs.
The Paks NPP was among the first organizations in Hungary to introduce preventive measures as COVID-19 appeared in the EU. A dedicated code of conduct during a pandemic, prepared at the Paks NPP, has been shared with other organisations in Hungary.
- Paks NPP
EPZ, which is operating the only nuclear power plant in the Netherlands, has been in contact with WANO and the VGB, which is the technical association of energy plant operators in order to exchange information and experience. The operator has introduced many measures to limit the risks such as:
- Working from home if possible
- Limiting access to the site
- Avoiding physical contact
- More hygiene
- Keeping the workplace safe
- Keeping a check on behaviour
- Using coronavirus PPE
As far as the planned activities are concerned, the plant’s refuelling period has been shortened, as only the most essential tasks will be carried out. A dedicated special team has been assigned to prepare the process.
ROMATOM’s members have introduced many measures in order to minimise the risk of the spread of COVID-19 such as:
- Working from home if possible,
- Setting a flexible schedule for working at offices,
- Providing disinfecting materials both in office spaces and for the personnel from construction sites / business units,
- Providing individual protection masks,
- Ensuring separate transportation,
- Cancellation of all external and internal trips and meetings,
- Establishing Working Groups – key functions for the operation of the nuclear installations,
- Establishing of Implementing Plans to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 infection.
For the projects which have been already contracted, there are two options:
- the completion of ongoing projects on time, minimizing the Third Parties involvement (sub-contractors, foreign partners etc.)
- adapting to clients’ decisions (scope reduction, postponement of works etc.).
Special measures were introduced by Nuclearelectrica, the operator of the Cernavoda NPP. The company has adopted a dedicated “Plan to ensure continuity of activities in the situation of a pandemic”. The plan is in line with the protection and prevention measures taken by the Romanian Government as well as with best international practices and experience in the nuclear field.
The plan was designed to have a gradual implementation and it is currently fully applied. The implementation is headed by a task force made up of senior managers who draft and implement measures in accordance with the evolution of the situation.
As of March 15th, Nuclearelectrica initiated the measurement of isolation for the essential operating and production staff from the Cernavoda NPP – around 840 employees, contracting personnel, including security and firefighters. This measure will be in place as long as necessary.
The initiation of this additional protection measure is based on the resolution of the National Special Committee for Emergency Situations which approved the isolation measurement for the essential staff of the Cernavoda NPP involved in operation and maintenance of the plant, consistent with the “Plan to ensure continuity of activities in the situation of a pandemic”.
Outside the working hours, the staff is located in an isolated, designated area, within the Cernavoda NPP’s townsite. Food, safe transportation and medical care are provided at all times.
Under the current context of COVID-19, the Board of Directors of Nuclearelectrica convened in a meeting held in April 2020, decided to postpone the scheduled outage of Unit 1 of Cernavoda NPP, which was planned to take place in May-June 2020, to a time when the pandemic risk would be reduced. The outage of Unit 1 is scheduled to take place starting June 20th and last 42 days, as per the announcement Nuclearelectrica made on May 8th 2020.
Usually, scheduled outages of nuclear units are performed alternatively, once every two years for each unit, in May-June. This outage is part of the pre-LTE project, including a larger volume of work than usual outages. Thus, the human and financial effort during the LTE period will be optimized.
Postponing and carrying out the scheduled outage of Unit 1 of Cernavoda NPP starting with the date of June 20th, 2020 does not affect the maintenance of the high level of nuclear security and operation efficiency of the Power Plant, the production taking place under normal parameters.
In addition, since the outbreak, Nuclearelectrica has been actively involved in sponsoring hospitals and humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross Romania for the procurement of necessary medical and protection equipment to treat patients and stop the spread of COVID-19.
As far as the events planned by ROMATOM are concerned, the events planned for this period of time, were postponed, such as the REGIONAL ENERGY FORUM FOREN 2020 scheduled for June 2020, has been rescheduled for September 2020. Other events were carried out remotely.
The General Meeting of SNN Shareholders are held as scheduled, as per the financial calendar of Nuclearelectrica, with a restricted participation and with the strict observation of the protection, social distancing and hygiene measures imposed by the authorities. Nuclearelectrica issued current reports encouraging correspondence voting methods and minimum physical participation in the meetings.
- Romanian Atomic Forum
Slovenske elektrarne was probably the first company in Slovakia that conservatively analysed possible risks and immediately started to adopt very strict measures depicted above, and could have been a reference for other companies. The Company’s top management has been in very close contact with state representatives for coordination of antivirus measures.
As a consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak, Slovenske elektrarne immediately established a special working group that has been discussing and introducing new protective measures on a daily basis. One of the first measures against the spread of the virus was allowing employees, whose presence was not necessary at their workplace, to start working from home. In order to facilitate this process, dedicated IT instruments were quickly provided to have distant access to work apps and shared data and to connect via conference calls. Large meetings have been immediately banned and all the already planned mass-participation activities for the first half of the year have been cancelled.
The Company immediately procured what was available to protect working staff – disinfections, respirators, face masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment. It also established and launched disinfection stations in its facility. In addition, a dedicated form was prepared for every employee or contractor entering any of the SE premises where people declared on oath that in the past 14 days he or she hadn’t been abroad (the list of countries was updated on a daily basis).
Some of other implemented measures were:
- Contactless temperature measurement at plant entrance obligatory for each person entering the facility
- Adjustment of work shifts – wherever possible from 8 to 12 hours to limit contacts
- People waiting in queues had to keep distance of 2 meters from each other
- Special measures in plant canteens – rearrangement of tables and seats to allow safe distance
- Massive intranet, poster and sticker campaign on wearing masks, washing hands with soap / or disinfection at least, keeping safe distance of 2 meters, and other basic protective measures, posters on what to do if one identifies symptoms of COVID-19, how to help others, etc.
- Articles on intranet how to survive long-term home office period, and many other related topics
- Extended offer of e-learning courses on various topics, especially for those at home office
Due to the measures the Company introduced against the spread of coronavirus, the company will execute only the most important works during the planned general overhaul, based on approval by the Slovak Nuclear Regulatory Authority, hence minimising the number of people or their social interaction in the nuclear power plant premises. The main goal of the Mochovce nuclear power plant general overhaul is to replace about one fifth of the fuel in the reactor and to carry out repairs and investment projects to increase the plant’s safety. Works on this year’s GO are reduced, but the length remains unchanged and should take less than three weeks.
The company is currently assessing the impact of the COVID-19 on the completion of the Mochovce 3&4 NPPs
- Slovak Nuclear Forum
- Slovenske elektrarne
Spanish Nuclear Forum (Foro Nuclear)
The Spanish Nuclear Forum (Foro Nuclear) is in constant contact with its members, especially with the operators of nuclear power plants in order to stay informed about the current COVID-19 situation and all the measures implemented in the Spanish nuclear sector. Foro Nuclear is sharing all the information among its members to be stronger in this combat and well organized. In the Spanish nuclear sector, all the people who have the possibility to do their work at home are teleworking.
All the Spanish nuclear power plants are operating to ensure the required level of electricity supply, which is necessary – especially in the crisis situation as the current one. At the same time, the operators have implemented all the measures, procedures and protocols to ensure that its employees (their health) is not endangered. The nuclear power plants have been using its internal communications channels to keep informing the staff about all the measures as, for example, respect the introduced safety distance or cleaning measures.
As far as the planned activities are concerned, some nuclear power plants (Ascó I, Tarragona) and (Alamaraz I, Cáceres) have already announced that they would reschedule their next refuelling outages due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Spanish nuclear industry has been also supporting the fight against COVID-19 by donating thousands of masks and other protective equipment. Apart from that, companies – in some cases – are offering free electricity and gas – in places such as hospital hotels. They have also launched dedicated funds supporting the fight and have activated special plans to provide materials, services, equipment and infrastructure supporting the ongoing fight against COVID-19.
Vattenfall organises regular (twice a week) meetings with its seven business units to keep everybody in the loop regarding the current situation. Nuclear power plants generate electricity in a stable and safe manner. During the ongoing situation, the company is in constant contact with the government in order to keep everybody informed as well as make sure that the operation of nuclear power plants is not disrupted, for example due to the closure of borders (some activities in nuclear power plants have to be carried out by experts from different countries).
The company follows all the regulations put in place by the Swedish government (such as: maximum size of gatherings, social distancing), which allows to continue all the necessary work in nuclear power plants.
All the planned outage (essential) activities will be carried out in accordance with the agreed time schedule, however some of the elements, which are not necessary or essential, will be postponed for the next outage operation.
Vattenfall has been supporting local hospitals by providing them with special equipment which can be used while dealing with the spread of COVID-19.
Other nuclear facilities:
Operators of other nuclear facilities in Sweden are closely monitroing all the developments linked to the COVID-19 outbreak and are in constant contact wih national regulators and authorities. For the moment, all the essential activities, that have been scheduled, will be carried out as planned.
- Swedish Atomic Forum
The nuclear sector in the UK ensures that energy gets to homes and hospitals, while protecting the essential workforce who are on nuclear sites.
In order to make it possible, EDF Energy, which runs all of the nuclear power plants in the UK, implemented its pandemic plans before the first case of COVID 19 was reported in the UK. The key priority is to ensure generation is protected in event of supply disruption and ensuring reserve operational teams are ready to cover absences caused by sickness or self-isolation. Those safety measures are also being rolled out at the Hinkley Point C construction site. Workers lodge at campus facilities to ensure they aren’t in the local community.
Beyond its nuclear-specific activities, many of EDF’s employees are going above and beyond their routine duties to alleviate the impacts of the virus. Smart metering and technical field engineers have volunteered to support the local community by partnering with Boots pharmacies to deliver critical medicines to those in need.
It should also be noted that maintenance—following social distancing guidelines—during planned outages of the nuclear fleet has been completed as planned since the lockdown started. This is bringing low carbon capacity back online.