Lobby groups file challenge to France's Flamanville nuclear reactor
* Activists say EDF and Areva knew about reactor vessel problems
* Flamanville key for EDF takeover of Areva reactor unit
* Much-delayed nuclear regulator's ruling due by Sept. 21
By Geert De Clercq
PARIS, April 19 (Reuters) - A group of activists has filed a legal challenge with the French prime minister's office against the extension of EDF's licence for construction of the Flamanville nuclear reactor in northern France.
The move by Greenpeace and other anti-nuclear groups is in response to safety concerns over the Flamanville reactor and is a precursor to elevation of their challenge to the State Council, the country's highest administrative court.
The lobby groups said in a statement that the licence, issued in 2007 and renewed this year, should not have been granted because EDF and reactor supplier Areva were aware of technical shortcomings at Areva's Creusot Forge nuclear foundry since 2005.
In 2014 Areva discovered that the lid of the Flamanville reactor vessel manufactured by Creusot Forge showed abnormally high carbon concentrations, which weaken its steel.
Nuclear regulator ASN is investigating whether the irregularities threathen the safety of the reactor and whether EDF, which also plans to build two Areva-designed EPR reactors at Hinkley Point in Britain, can proceed with Flamanville's start-up in 2018 as planned. Continued...