* Olkiluoto EPR to start May 2019, Flamanville Dec 2019
* EDF keeps 10.5 bln euros budget for Flamanville
* Both reactors years behind schedule, billions over budget (Adds detail and background)
PARIS, Oct 9 (Reuters) - French state-controlled power group EDF confirmed that it expected its long-delayed nuclear reactor in Flamanville, northern France, to be fully up and running in late 2019.
France’s nuclear regulator had warned last month that the construction schedule for the reactor was tight.
EDF, however, said in a statement on Monday that work on the Areva-designed European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) was progressing in line with a timetable announced in September 2015, with the first so-called ‘hot’ tests due in July 2018, followed by fuel-loading and start-up by the end of the fourth quarter of 2018.
A spokeswoman confirmed that grid connection was due for the second quarter of 2019 and the reactor would ramp up to its full 1600 MW power by the last quarter of 2019. In July, EDF said this would be in May and November 2019, respectively.
Separately, an Areva spokesman said on Monday that the start of full power production at the EPR reactor it is building as part of a consortium in Olkiluoto, Finland, will be delayed further until May 2019, almost a decade later than originally planned.
EDF on Monday also confirmed that the Flamanville reactor’s cost would remain at its 2015 estimate of 10.5 billion euros ($12.3 billion), more than three times the original budget.
Despite the discovery of weak spots in the Flamanville reactor vessel lid and cover, French regulator ASN in June provisionally declared Flamanville was fit for service and could start, but EDF will have to replace the cover by 2024. That provisional ruling is expected to be confirmed this month.
In September, the head of nuclear safety at the ASN’s IRSN technical arm said that starting a new reactor was always a challenge and that EDF’s planning was “tight”. ($1 = 0.8529 euros) (Reporting by Geert De Clercq and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Louise Heavens and Susan Fenton)