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Uranium Enrichment and Fuel Fabrication - Current Issues (France)

(last updated 13 Sep 2017)

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Information about French nuclear fuel cycle plants (Nuclear Safety Authority - ASN, in French)
 

General

Nuclear fuel fabrication workers continue to receive highest individual radiation doses in France's nuclear sector

According to the 2016 report of the French Radiation Protection Authority Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN), the workers receiving the highest individual doses in the French nuclear industry are those employed in nuclear fuel fabrication. In 2016, the individual dose of exposed workers in fuel fabrication was 2.55 mSv, compared to 0.98 mSv for exposed workers in reactor operation, for example.
> View IRSN release Sep. 12, 2017 (in French)
> Download: La radioprotection des travailleurs - Exposition professionnelle aux rayonnements ionisants en France: bilan 2016 , IRSN 2017 (3.2MB PDF - in French)

 

French Nuclear Safety Authority, in view of possible re-classification of reprocessed uranium as a waste, orders study for disposal of reprocessed uranium (!)

France's Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) is taking first steps towards a reversal of the policy regarding the management of reprocessed uranium. While ASN still finds that the use of reprocessed uranium in current reactors is possible, it acknowledges that utilities have suspended its use in their reactors. So, ASN now eyes the possibility that at least some part of the reprocessed uranium might now longer be regarded as a resource, but as a waste.
Under these auspices, ASN has ordered the national radioactive waste management agency ANDRA, to prepare a feasibility study on the disposal of reprocessed uranium.
> View: ASN release April 6, 2016 (in French)
> Download: Avis no 2016-AV-0256 de l'Autorité de sûreté nucléaire du 9 février 2016 sur les études relatives à l'évaluation du caractère valorisable des matières radioactives remises en application du plan national de gestion des matières et des déchets radioactifs 2013-2015, en vue de l'élaboration du plan national de gestion des matières et des déchets radioactifs 2016-2018
> Download: Procédés de valorisation des matières radioactives présentes sur le sol français (AREVA, CEA, EDF, Solvay), 06 Janvier 2015 (687k PDF - in French)

 

Study finds increased incidence of pleural cancer among French uranium enrichment workers

"[...] We analysed the relationship between exposure to soluble uranium compounds and exposure to external gamma-radiation and mortality in a cohort of 4688 French uranium enrichment workers who were employed between 1964 and 2006. [...] SMR [standard mortality ratio] for pleural cancer was significantly increased (2.3, 95% CI 1.06 to 4.4), but was only based on nine cases. [...]"
Mortality (19682008) in a French cohort of uranium enrichment workers potentially exposed to rapidly soluble uranium compounds, by Zhivin S, Guseva Canu I, Samson E, et al., in: Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Published Online First: 10 December 2015

 

French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) demands additional precautions for the hard core of all fuel cycle facilities against external hazards

On Jan. 8, 2015, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) issued decisions to all nuclear fuel cycle facilities ordering them to take additional precautions for the hard core of their installations against external hazards, such as earthquakes, floodings, and tornadoes.

 

French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) clarifies requirements for control of criticality hazards at nuclear base installations (INB)

> View ASN release Dec. 22, 2014 (in French)
> Download: Décision nº 2014-DC-0462 de l'Autorité de sûreté nucléaire du 7 octobre 2014 relative la maîtrise du risque de criticité dans les installations nucléaires de base (150kB PDF - in French)

 

Independent radiation laboratory CRIIRAD releases report on nuclear transports in the Rhône-Alpes region

> Download: Étude préliminaire sur le transport des substances radioactives en Rhône-Alpes , CRIIRAD, Dec. 10, 2014 (2.6MB PDF - in French)
[Preliminary study on the transport of radioactive materials in the Rhône-Alpes region (of France); Annexe C contains statistics of transports shipped or received at nuclear facilities in the area, such as Areva NC Pierrelatte, Comurhex Pierrelatte, EURODIF Production, among others]

 

Nuclear fuel fabrication workers still receive highest individual radiation doses in France's nuclear sector - though slightly lower than in previous year

According to the 2013 report of the French Radiation Protection Authority Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN), the workers receiving the highest individual doses in the French nuclear industry are those employed in nuclear fuel fabrication. In 2013, the individual dose of exposed workers in fuel fabrication was 2.46 mSv (a slight reduction from the 3.19 mSv in 2012), compared to 1.01 mSv for exposed workers in reactor operation, for example.
> View IRSN release July 10, 2014 (in French)
> Download: La radioprotection des travailleurs - Exposition professionnelle aux rayonnements ionisants en France: bilan 2013 , IRSN 2014 (2.1MB PDF - in French)

 

ASN orders Areva to improve emergency management measures at Tricastin and Romans-sur-Isère nuclear fuel facility sites after deadline exceeded

After Areva had failed to implement provisional emergency management measures at its Tricastin and Romans-sur-Isère sites by a June 30, 2013, deadline, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN ordered Areva to implement the measures within four to eight months. The order concerns the Areva companies Eurodif Production, Comurhex, Socatri, Areva NC and SET at Tricastin and FBFC at Romans-sur-Isère.
> View ASN release July 29, 2013 (in French)

 

Nuclear fuel fabrication workers receive highest individual radiation doses in France's nuclear sector

According to the 2012 report of the French Radiation Protection Authority Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN), the workers receiving the highest individual doses in the French nuclear industry are those employed in nuclear fuel fabrication. In 2012, the individual dose of exposed workers in fuel fabrication was 3.19 mSv, compared to 0.90 mSv for exposed workers in reactor operation, for example.
> View IRSN release July 23, 2013 (in French)
> Download: La radioprotection des travailleurs - Exposition professionnelle aux rayonnements ionisants en France: bilan 2012 , IRSN 2013 (2.1MB PDF - in French)

 

Comment invited on guidance for the control of activities in the vicinity of nuclear installations

The Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) and the ministries of the environment of the interior are inviting public comment on a draft guidance to control activities in the vicinity of nuclear installations that are licensed as installation nucléaire de base (INB).
Comments have to be submitted by December 17, 2011.
> View ASN release Oct. 17, 2011 and download guidance (in French)

 

ASN releases supplemental safety reports on French nuclear fuel facilities prepared in wake of Fukushima disaster; Areva impedes download of its reports

On Sep. 16, 2011, nuclear regulator Autorité de sûreté nucléaire (ASN) released several reports on the safety at nuclear fuel plants. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, ASN had requested these reports from the plant owners.
The reports prepared by Areva are only viewable as page images, impeding the download of the documents.
> Access Évaluations complémentaires de sûreté (ASN - in French)
The reports come to the follwing conclusions:

 

France releases report making material flux of nuclear fuel production more transparent

A report prepared by the Haut Comité pour la Transparence et l'Information sur la Sécurité Nucléaire sheds some light on the materials produced at every stage of the production of the nuclear fuel eventually used in the nuclear power plants operated by EdF in France. It also analyses the international transfers connected to the reprocessing of uranium. The report had been commissioned by Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo and the Office parlementaire de l'évaluation des choix scientifiques et technologiques.

Avis sur la transparence de la gestion des matières et des déchets nucléaires produits aux différents stades du cycle du combustible , Haut Comité pour la Transparence et l'Information sur la Sécurité Nucléaire, 12 juillet 2010 (HCTISN - in French)

 

Health study released on incidence of cancers around the Tricastin nuclear site

The study found an increased incidence of pancreas cancer with women "that cannot be explained based on current scientific knowledge".

> Download Étude sanitaire sur les cancers autour du site nucléaire du Tricastin ORS Rhône-Alpes – Juin 2010 (1.3M PDF, ORS - in French) · alternate source

 

France conducts public consultation on revision of regulations for major nuclear facilities (INB)

Comments can be submitted until May 25, 2010.

> View La refonte de la réglementation générale des INB (ASN - in French)
> View Refonte de la réglementation technique des installations nucléaires de base (Ministry of Ecology - in French)

 

France issues new regulations for major nuclear facilities

On Nov. 6, 2007, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) announced the publication of the décret "procédures INB" in the Official Journal of Nov. 3, 2007.

> View ASN release Nov. 6, 2007 (in French)
> View Décret n° 2007-1557 du 2 novembre 2007 relatif aux installations nucléaires de base et au contrôle, en matière de sûreté nucléaire, du transport de substances radioactives , J.O n° 255 du 3 novembre 2007 page 18026 (in French)

 

No use of reprocessed uranium in French reactors in the near future

The uranium recovered from reprocessing of spent fuel in France is not expected to be used for the manufacture of nuclear fuel in the near future. French utility EdF rather has made provisions for long-term storage of the reprocessed uranium for 250 years. This was revealed in a report of the French Court of Auditors on the decommissioning of nuclear facilities and the management of radioactive wastes.

Usage of the reprocessed uranium (REPU) is problematic for several reasons: since the REPU is contaminated with the artificial uranium isotopes U-232 and U-236, special precautions are necessary during processing: the U-232 and its decay products cause elevated radiation doses for the plant personnel, and the U-236 as a neutron absorber requires higher enrichment levels to achieve the same reactivity. In consequence, use of the REPU is not very attractive at present market conditions: conversion is three times more expensive than conversion of natural uranium, and enrichment cannot be done in France's sole enrichment plant (Eurodif gazeous diffusion plant), since the REPU would contaminate the plant's circuits. For production of two test refueling batches for the Cruas nuclear power plant, the REPU was enriched in a foreign (presumably Russian) centrifuge enrichment plant.

Of the 1050 t of spent uranium oxide fuel annually generated in France, 850 t are being reprocessed at La Hague, at present. (In addition, 100 t of spent MOX fuel arise, which are not reprocessed at all.) From reprocessing of uranium oxide fuel, approx. 816 t of uranium and 8.5 t of plutonium are recovered. Of the uranium recovered, approx. 650 t are converted to the more stable oxide form for long-term storage, awaiting future uses.
The uranium recovered in the former Marcoule reprocessing plant has never been recycled into nuclear fuel at all. It still stays at Marcoule, in the liquid form of uranyl nitrate, 3800 t owned by EdF, and 4800 t owned by CEA and Cogéma.

Cour des Comptes: Le démantèlement des installations nucléaires et la gestion des déchets radioactifs, Rapport au Président de la République suivi des réponses des administrations et des organismes intéressés, Janvier 2005
> Download full report (in French)

 


CEA laser-based uranium enrichment research (SILVA)

(programme Silva Séparation Isotopique par Laser de la Vapeur Atomique)

CEA terminates laser-based uranium enrichment research

France's Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique (CEA) has completed its research on laser-based uranium enrichment (SILVA programme). The research had been performed from the mid-1980's, co-financed by COGEMA from 1993 to 2002. From 2000 to 2003, an Euro 146 million feasibility study has been performed at Pierrelatte. During this study, some 200 kilograms of enriched uranium (and about one tonne of depleted uranium) have been produced in November 2003.
After COGEMA has made a decision to replace its Eurodif gaseous diffusion plant by centrifuge technology, the SILVA programme will be discontinued. (CEA January 9, 2004)
 

COGEMA MOX fuel fabrication plant, Cadarache (Bouches-du-Rhône, France)

INB No. 32, 54
Information about Cadarache plant (Nuclear Safety Authority - ASN, in French)
Commission Locale d'Information de Cadarache

> View more recent issues

Violation of criticality rules at Cadarache MOX fuel fabrication plant

On April 15, 2011, the Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA) announced that 24 bins at the Atelier de technologie plutonium (ATPu) and Laboratoire de purification chimique (LPC) workshops were found to exceeded the 100 g standard for fissile materials. The event was rated level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). (ASN May 24, 2011)

Violation of criticality rules at Cadarache MOX fuel fabrication plant

On Dec. 21, 2010, elevated amounts of fissile material were detected in four waste bins in the "l'Atelier de Technologie du Plutonium" (ATPu). The amounts were above the licensed limit, but far below the criticality level. (Areva Dec. 30, 2010)

Violation of criticality rules at Cadarache MOX fuel fabrication plant

On Oct. 26, 2010, 246 g of fissile material were found in a waste drum that was licensed to hold only 100 g. Two other drums were identified, where this limit possibly was exceeded. The event had no impacts on workers nor environment. The event was rated level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). (ASN Nov. 9, 2010)

Surplus enriched uranium found at Cadarache MOX fuel fabrication plant

After the find of undeclared plutonium at Cadarache (see below), there now has been found excess enriched uranium, as well: 10 kg of low enriched uranium were found at a storage where only 4 kg were permitted. (AFP Oct. 25, 2009)

ASN suspends dismantling work at Cadarache MOX fuel fabrication plant for undeclared criticality hazard

The French nuclear safety watchdog ASN has suspended work dismantling a plutonium technology plant over worker safety fears, after almost three times as much plutonium was found at the site than expected. The watchdog said it was only told of the problem on Oct. 6, although the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), the state body that supervises the plant in Cadarache near the southern port of Marseille, had been aware of the problem since early June.
Around eight kilograms of plutonium were believed to have been stored at the site when it was in operation, but some 22 kilograms had been discovered to date and the final figure could be closer to 39 kilograms, the nuclear safety watchdog ASN said. The underestimation of the quantity of plutonium sharply reduced safety margins designed to prevent fissile material reaching critical mass, "which could potentially have serious consequences for the workforce," the ASN statement said.
The watchdog ranked the event as a level two "incident" on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), which runs from zero to a maximum of seven for a major incident. (Reuters Oct. 15, 2009)

> Download Avis de l’IRSN sur l’événement significatif déclaré le 6 octobre 2009 concernant l’Atelier de technologie du plutonium du centre de Cadarache (ATPu-INB 32) (Oct. 14, 2009) (96k PDF - in French)

On Nov. 3, 2009, ASN authorized the resumption of the dismantling work. (ASN Nov. 3, 2009)

 

CRIIRAD presents study on environmental impact of Cadarache nuclear site

On June 23, 2009, the independent radiation laboratory CRIIRAD presented a study on the environmental impact of the nuclear center of Cadarache. Among others, the site comprises 19 Installations Nucléaire de Base (INB), including the closed MOX fuel plant. CRIIRAD had access to all site-specific documentation, but was not allowed to take independent measurements on site.

> View CRIIRAD documents June 23, 2009 (in French)

 

ASN orders CEA to clear former Cadarache MOX fuel plant of all nuclear material by end June 2008

> Download: Décision n° 2007-DC-0036 de l’Autorité de sûreté nucléaire du 21 mars 2007 (PDF - in French)

 

ASN upgrades Cadarache MOX fuel plant incident to level 2 on INES scale

The French Nuclear Safety Authority (Autorité de sûreté nucléaire - ASN) has upgraded an incident that occured on November 6, 2006, at Areva's Cadarache MOX fuel plant (Atelier de Technologie du Plutonium - ATPu) to level 2 on the INES scale. A mill used for grinding of MOX fuel rejects (consisting of oxides of depleted uranium and plutonium) had inadvertently been loaded twice, exceeding the criticality criterion for the mill, but fortunately no criticality event was set off. (ASN Jan. 9, 2007)

 

Fabrication of MOX fuel lead test assemblies for the U.S. DOE plutonium disposition program

On Aug. 12, 2003, Cogema has won the contract to fabricate the mixed-oxide (MOX) lead test assemblies (LTAs) for the US plutonium disposition programme. (WNA News Briefing 03.35, Sep. 3, 2003)
> See also: WISE Paris release Sep. 9, 2003 : "Transfer" of MOX production capacity from Cadarache to Marcoule: one scandal after another

On Oct. 6, 2003, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) applied for an export license (XSNM03327) to export up to 140 kg of plutonium oxide to France for the production of four MOX fuel "lead assemblies". The material will be shipped in July/August 2004 by sea transport from Charleston Naval Weapons Station , South Carolina, to Cherbourg, France. For sea transport, two armed Pacific Nuclear Transport, Ltd. (PNTL) ships sailing in convoy will be used. The fabricated MOX fuel assemblies will be returned the same way.
> See also: Federal Register: October 27, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 207)p. 61238 (download full text )
On June 15, 2004, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission denied petitions to intervene filed by Greenpeace International, Charleston Peace, and Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and directed the Office of International Programs to issue the export license. (SRM-M040615)
On June 16, 2004, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the requested license for the plutonium export to France (XSNM03327).

On November 7, 2003, the U.S. Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) amended its January 11, 2000 Record of Decision (ROD) to allow for the fabrication of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel lead assemblies in France on a one-time basis.
> See: Federal Register: November 14, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 220) p. 64611-64614 (download full text )

On September 20, 2004, the Pacific Teal and the Pacific Pintail, two UK-registered ships dedicated to the transport of nuclear materials, left Charleston (South Carolina) carrying the plutonium for the MOX fuel lead assemblies to France. (Cogema Sep. 21, 2004)

 

Cadarache MOX fuel factory closed; concerns about possible future use for U.S. plutonium disposition program

The Cadarache MOX fuel factory ceased commercial production on July 31, 2003, due to the high seismic hazard at the site. The capacity of the MELOX plant at Marcoule will be increased to compensate for the closure.
> View ASN release Sep. 3, 2003 (in French)

However, according to a WISE-Paris Briefing, there is a possibility that the plant could be used for future production of MOX Lead Test Assemblies for the U.S. plutonium disposition program.

> View WISE-Paris release (July 30, 2003)
> Download WISE-Paris Briefing: U.S. "MOX Lead Test Assembly" Controversy: Fabrication at Cadarache, France (July 29, 2003) (325k PDF)


 

Cadarache factory will close in late 2002 or early 2003

The Cadarache mox fuel factory, which has been instructed to cease its activity because it does not comply with seismic safety regulations, is expected to close at the end of 2002 or early in 2003, according to the French nuclear safety agency ASN. In case owner Areva does not take the initiative in closing the site down, ASN will carry out the closure with the issue of a decree. (La Tribune- France, Mar 21, 2002)
 

Cadarache Special of Plutonium Investigation newsletter

The April-May 2001 issue of WISE-Paris' newsletter Plutonium Investigation is a Cadarache Special:
> View/download Plutonium Investigation No.20
 

COGEMA confirms plans for closure of Cadarache MOX fuel plant

March 27, 2001: Cogéma confirms that it will close its Cadarache MOX fuel plant in a few years for the earthquake hazard at the plant site. The production of 40 t of MOX fuel is to be relocated to Cogéma's Marcoule plant. The closure might become effective in 2003. (AP March 27, 2001)
 

DSIN inspectors demand shutdown of Cadarache MOX fuel plant for earthquake hazard

July 19, 2000: After five years of fruitless pressure Cogema's L'Atelier de technologie du plutonium (ATPu) plant at Cadarache, which produces 40 tonnes of mixed oxide fuel (MOX) per year for export to Germany, government inspectors took the unprecedented step of releasing documents to WISE-Paris .
A 1994 survey showed that the area round Cadarache, near the mouth of the river Rhône, had experienced a "significant growth" of seismic activity since the end of 1993, and that "destructive" earthquakes could be expected to recur once a century.
The Directorate for the Safety of Nuclear Installations (Direction de la sûreté des installations nucléaires - DSIN ) held a meeting with the plant's operators Cogema in 1995, in which it said that "a rapid closure of the installation is necessary." It asked for a "plan for the future of the factory including a definitive closure date not long after 2000". (AFP, The Guardian, WISE-Paris)

> Download WISE-Paris briefing on Cadarache as PDF file (84k PDF in French)
> Download Briefing annexes (letters, map, figures) (848k PDF in French)
 

Incidents at Cadarache MOX fuel plant

Cadarache events (ASN, in French)
 

MELOX MOX fuel fabrication plant, Marcoule (Gard, France)

INB No. 151
Information about Marcoule plant (Nuclear Safety Authority - ASN, in French)
 

Violation of criticality rules at MELOX MOX fuel plant

On June 25, 2017, the amount of plutonium found in a waste container showed a "significant exceedance" of the permitted limit. (ASN July 13, 2017)

Areva commissions second line for mixture of powders at Melox MOX fuel plant

Areva's MOX fuel fabrication plant MELOX in Marcoule strengthens its production capacity with the commissioning of a second powder mixing line. The mixture of powders is the first step in the manufacture of MOX fuel process.
The Areva MELOX plant produced 134 tonnes of MOX fuel in 2014. (Areva Oct. 7, 2015)

Violation of criticality rules at MELOX MOX fuel plant

On Nov. 25, 2014, Areva announced that on Nov. 22 some equipment containing lubricant was introduced into a glove box without the required listing. Areva proposed to rate the event level 1 on the INES scale.

Unidentified drone overflights observed at MELOX MOX fuel fabriation plant site in Marcoule

A drone overflight was observed during the night between Thursday (Nov. 6) and Friday (Nov. 7) at the nuclear site of Marcoule. Since early October, 15 overflights have been observed at various nuclear plants in France already. It is still unknown, who is responsible for them and what their intentions are. (Midi Libre Nov. 7, 2014)

Another drone overflight has been observed at the Marcoule site last night. (Objectif Gard Nov. 19, 2014)

ASN makes further operation of MELOX MOX fuel fabriation plant conditional upon safety improvements

On July 31, 2014, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) ordered the improvement of several safety-related issues for the MELOX plant to be allowed to continue operation. The issues include radiation exposure of employees, fire protection, and protection against criticality events, among others.

Depleted uranium required for MOX fuel fabrication at MELOX plant to be imported from USA

Areva has applied for an NRC export licence for up to 100 t of depleted UO2 powder per year from its Richland, Washington, nuclear fuel plant to Marcoule:
"AREVA's MELOX facility near Avignon, France produces mixed-oxide LWR fuel for power reactor customers. The 'burnable' part of this MOX fuel is plutonium oxide, which is supplied to MELOX from AREVA's spent fuel recycling facility in France. The Pu oxide makes up at maximum just 10% of the weight of the MOX fuel pellet. Depleted uranium is used as a diluent, making up the remaining 90+% of the fuel pellets. Around 2011 MELOX switched its supplier of U-oxide powder to AREVA's Lingen, Germany fuel fabrication facility. The previous supplier in France has ceased operation. For various reasons, AREVA is now looking at several different alternatives for supply of U-oxide for MELOX. AREVA's Richland facility has been specifically asked to develop alternative types of U-oxide powder for testing and possible use as a supplement to, or substitute for, the Lingen powder."
(Application for NRC Export Licence XSOU-8833, March 24, 2014 , ADAMS Acc. No. ML14090A010)
On Aug. 22, 2014, NRC issued the requested export license.
> Download Export License XSOU-8833

MELOX plant ships MOX fuel elements in uncertified container models

On Oct. 24, 2012, Areva notified ASN that fresh MOX fuel rods had been shipped from the MELOX fuel plant in Marcoule to the FBFC fuel plant in Dessel, Belgium, in uncertified container models.
The fuel rods were transported surrounded by straps used for handling. These straps, composed of hydrogen-containing material, were not supposed to be present in the container model used. When exposed to radiation, hydrogen-containing material may increase the internal pressure in the container, presenting the risk of an explosion, or the production of inflammable gas. The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Nov. 19, 2012)

Areva suspends capacity increase at MELOX MOX fuel plant

On Dec. 13, 2011, Areva announced the suspension of the capacity increase at the MELOX plant in Marcoule. (AFP Dec. 13, 2011)

Contamination incident at MELOX MOX fuel plant

On June 28, 2011, a mechanical failure of an assembly bench caused a radioactive contamination event at the fuel assembly stage of the MELOX MOX fuel plant. Seventeen workers could return to their workplaces after medical checks. The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN July 5, 2011)

MELOX SA new owner of MELOX MOX fuel plant

On Sep. 3, 2010, the Ministry of Ecology approved the ownership change of the MELOX Marcoule plant from Areva NC to MELOX SA, a 100% owned subsidiary of Areva NC. (Journal Officiel Sep. 5, 2010)

Worker contaminated in glove box accident at MELOX fuel fabrication plant

On Feb. 9, 2010, a worker was contaminated when the glove box he was using was damaged in an accident. The worker was transfered to a specialized medical service in the Paris area. The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Feb. 11, 2010)

MOX fuel lots mixed up at MELOX fuel fabrication plant

On Oct. 20, 2009, three baskets carrying MOX fuel pellets were mixed up at the Marcoule MOX plant. The error was not detected until Oct. 29, 2009. ASN rated the incident level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Nov. 6, 2009)

Violation of criticality rules at MELOX MOX fuel plant

On March 3, 2009, the amount of fissile material located in a working station exceeded the permissible limit by 1%. No criticality occured, as the limit is set at half the amount required to initiate a criticality. Areva had initially rated the event level 1 on the INES scale. In view of the violation of several safety requirements that led to the event, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) changed the rating to level 2 on the INES scale. (Areva March 4, 2009; ASN March 19, 2009)

Spill at Marcoule waste water treatment plant

On July 17, 2007, three cubic meters of waste water with a specific activity of approx. 40 Bq/cm3 spilled inside the building; only some dozen litres reached the outside of the building. The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale.

Violation of criticality rules at MELOX MOX fuel plant

On May 29, 2007, an automatic transport cart carrying plutonium oxide was permitted to enter an already loaded working station. No criticality occured. The incident was rated INES 1. (ASN July 9, 2007)

Government authorizes further capacity increase for MELOX MOX fuel plant

On April 26, 2007, Areva received government approval for the requested capacity increase of the MELOX MOX fuel plant from 145 to 195 tHM/a. (Areva April 27, 2007)

Public Inquiry into further extension of MELOX MOX fuel plant

On Feb. 2, 2006, the Vice Minister of Industry announced the start of the public consultation process regarding the increase of capacity from 145 to 195 tHM/a. The public inquiry will be held from April 18 to June 17, 2006.
> View speech of François Loos, Vice Minister of Industry, Feb. 2, 2006 (in French)

MELOX MOX fuel fabrication plant requests further capacity increase

In September 2004, MELOX requested a further capacity increase from 145 to 195 tHM/a. (Areva)

ASN authorizes capacity increase for MELOX MOX fuel plant

On Sep. 3, 2003, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) issued a decree authorizing a capacity increase from 101 to 145 tonnes for the MELOX MOX fuel plant at Marcoule. The increase compensates for the shutdown of the Cadarache MOX fuel plant. According to a COGEMA release of Sep. 4, 2003, the capacity increase is achieved without extension nor major modifications to the plant.

> View ASN release Sep. 4, 2003 (in French)
> View Décret n° 2003-843 (Journal Officiel Sep. 4, 2003) (in French)
 

Elevated radiation found near MELOX MOX fuel plant

The independent radiation monitoring organization CRIIRAD has found elevated gamma radiation on public roads and in vineyards outside the fence of the MELOX MOX fuel plant at Marcoule (Gard). The radiation exposure is twice background in some places. The radiation source is assumed to be waste stocked on site.

> Download CRIIRAD release Jan. 16, 2003 (179k PDF, in French)

On Jan. 14, 2003, Greenpeace France started a campaign of environmental monitoring around the Marcoule plant.
> View Greenpeace press release · campaign announcement (in French)
 

Public Inquiry into extension of MELOX MOX fuel plant

A public inquiry into the planned extension of the capacity of the MELOX mixed oxide (MOX) fuel plant in Marcoule will be initiated. The capacity increase is required to transfer the capacity of the Cadarache plant to Marcoule. The Cadarache plant is to be closed for its earthquake hazard.
> View ASN release Sep. 26, 2002 (in French)

The Ministries of the ecology and of the industry asked the prefect of Gard to open a public inquiry into the demand presented by COGEMA for the extension of the capacity of its MELOX factory of MOX fuel, located in Marcoule.
> View Ecol. Ministry release Oct. 23, 2002 (in French)

The public inquiry was set to begin on 8 January, 2003, in the two departements (counties) nearest the plant site at Marcoule. The prefect of the Gard departement that contains the Marcoule site announced the opening of the two-month inquiry on 3 December, 2002. (WNA News Briefing Jan. 15, 2003)
 

Incidents at MELOX MOX fuel plant

Marcoule events (ASN, in French)
 

COGEMA/SICN nuclear fuel fabrication plant, Veurey-Voroize (Isère, France)

INB No. 65, 90
Information about SICN plant (Nuclear Safety Authority - ASN, in French)
The plant halted all production at the end of 2002.

> View more recent issues

COGEMA/SICN nuclear fuel plant license jeopardized by poor safety culture

"From site surveillance visits of inspectors of the Nuclear Safety Authority, the generally low level in the matter of safety culture is known. The licensee has been informed that, if this situation became permanent, it would jeopardize the handling of any nuclear material exceeding the regulatory level of a Basic Nuclear Installation (INB)." (translated from ASN homepage, as of July 22, 2000)
 

Incidents at COGEMA/SICN nuclear fuel plant

SICN fuel plant events (ASN - in French)
 

Areva NP nuclear fuel fabrication plant, Romans-sur-Isère (Drôme, France)

(formerly FBFC Romans)
INB No. 98, 63
Information about FBFC plant (Nuclear Safety Authority - ASN, in French)
 

Appeals Court sanctions violations of criticality rules at Areva's FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On 15 May 2017, the Grenoble Court of Appeal, overturning the judgment of the Valencia Criminal Court, acknowledged that mistakes had been made in the management of the FBFC plant in September 2012. The former head of the site was ordered to pay 15,000 euros in damages and 9,000 euros in costs.
The Areva NP plant in Romans-sur-Isère, a subsidiary of Areva, known until the end of 2014 under the name of FBFC, manufactures nuclear fuel rods used in reactors. For several years, serious negligence has been repeated, causing the workers and residents of the factory to run a real risk. For example, in September 2012, inspections showed that the plant, in defiance of the most basic safety rules, sometimes stored "bottles" containing dry and wet fissile materials. However, the latter must be subject to additional precautions because they are more likely to trigger an uncontrolled chain reaction.
In 2014, the "Sortir du Nucléaire" network had summoned Areva and the successive directors of the site before the Criminal Court of Valencia to answer for the offenses committed. Since the Tribunal had decided in April 2016 to release them, the associations had appealed against that decision. The appeal hearing took place on 7 November 2016. On 15 May 2017, the Grenoble Court of Appeal finally sanctioned the disastrous management of the plant. (Sortir du Nucléaire May 16, 2017)
> See also: Violation of criticality rules at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant (Sep. 26, 2012)

Violation of radiation protection rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On 8 February, a radiation protection technician detected a gap in the monitoring of the ambient air at a construction site. (Areva Feb. 24, 2017)
Air contamination monitoring was missing for several weeks between end November 2016 and early February 2017. The Nuclear Safety Authority ASN rated this event Level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Mar. 1, 2017)

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Aug. 18, 2016, Areva noticed the transfer of an excessive number of fuel element components in the research reactor fuel workshop. Areva proposes to rate the event Level 1 of the INES scale. (Areva Aug. 23, 2016)

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Apr. 18, 2016, Areva announced that during a weekly cleaning operation of some equipment in a workshop recovering uranium material for reuse, an operator found an exceedance of the uranium mass allowed in the receptacle provided for this purpose. Areva proposes to rate the event Level 1 of the INES scale.

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Sep. 24, 2015, Areva announced that excessive residual waste was found at the bottom of a waste water collection sump at the waste-treatment facility of the plant. Areva proposes to rate the event Level 1 of the INES scale.

Nuclear Safety Authority ASN keeps Areva's FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant under tightened oversight

"ASN has conducted, from 24 to 28 November 2014, a review inspection of AREVA's nuclear fuel manufacturing plant FBFC in Romans-sur-Isère to review the safety management and the operating rigor on the site. [...]"
"The objective of this inspection was to verify AREVA's implementation of improvement actions on the site in terms of safety management and operational rigor. Indeed, the ASN had placed the site of AREVA FBFC under enhanced vigilance at the end of 2013 and convened the Directorate General of AREVA in February 2014 asking it to improve the safety of the site. Following this hearing, the licensee sent ASN a safety improvement plan outlining the commitments, bearing both on improving the operational rigor and on strengthening security some structures and equipment on the site, over several years. [...]"
"On completion of this review inspection, ASN observed that the first actions to improve the plant's organization of safety-related issues are being deployed within the facilities, while other actions for improvement are still awaited. [...]"
"In conclusion, the operator must continue its efforts to improve the safety of site facilities. ASN therefore maintained its heightened vigilance on the implementation of planned actions and expects the effective improvement of operational rigor. [...]" (ASN June 23, 2015 - emphasis added)

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Dec. 2, 2014, Areva announced that four canisters containing scrap uranium oxide pellets were stored outside their dedicated slot on the ground. The company proposed to rate the event Level 1 on the INES scale.

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Oct. 2, 2014, Areva notified the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN of a significant event involving the violation of the storage rules for uranium at the FBFC Romans nuclear fuel plant. The Nuclear Safety Authority ASN rated this event Level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Oct. 15, 2014)

Inspection on criticality safety brings "unacceptable" practices to light at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel plant

Alerted by a series of violations of criticality rules at the FBFC Romans nuclear fuel plant, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN conducted an inspection on criticality safety procedures at the plant. The inspection identified a number of problems, in particular the following ones that were considered "unacceptable" by the authority: > Download: ASN letter to FBFC Romans fuel plant , Oct. 3, 2014 (147k PDF - in French)

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

During a stock-taking in the aftermath of the Sep. 22, 2014, incident, Areva found on Sep. 30, 2014, that during the production process nuclear fuel components were stored at locations not intended for this purpose.
The Nuclear Safety Authority ASN rated this event Level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Oct. 2, 2014)

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Sep. 22, 2014, Areva announced that a lot of unfinished fuel plates (made of highly enriched uranium) for research reactors was stored in shelves not suitable for plates of this dimension. The company proposed to rate the event Level 1 on the INES scale.
The Nuclear Safety Authority ASN confirmed this rating on Sep. 26, 2014.

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Sep. 2, 2014, Areva announced that the density of uranium in a research reactor fuel workshop slightly exceeded the level assumed in the safety studies. No criticality occured, as there still was a safety margin of a factor of four. The company proposed to rate the event Level 1 on the INES scale.
The Nuclear Safety Authority ASN confirmed this rating on Sep. 10, 2014.

Event at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On June 16, 2014, Areva announced that a humidity sensor set off an alarm in the uranium pellet fabrication workshop of its Romans-sur-Isère nuclear fuel plant. First investigations showed that the concentration of some (unidentified) chemical element in reject uranium powder slightly exceeded the authorized limit. Areva proposed to rate this event Level 1 on the INES scale.

Container holding enriched uranium powder accidentally cut up at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Apr. 23, 2014, a container supposed to be empty was cut up, while it still contained uranium powder enriched up to 5%. A similar incident had occured in 2009 already. The event was rated Level 1 of the INES scale. (ASN Apr. 29, 2014)

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

Two lots of fuel slabs for research reactors were placed on a workbench, where only one was allowed. The company proposes to rate the event Level 1 on the INES scale. (Areva Feb. 27, 2014)

Truck with low-level waste from FBFC nuclear fuel plant in accident

On 26 Nov. 2013, a truck carrying two containers with low-level radioactive waste originating from the FBFC Romans nuclear fuel plant had an accident on an icy road near Arsonval, approx. 30 km from Morvilliers (Aube). The containers were not damaged in the accident. (Areva Nov. 26, 2013)

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Sep. 19, 2013, Areva declared an event concerning the unplanned accumulation of uranium dust in the ventilation system of the plant. The event was rated Level 1 of the INES scale. (ASN Sep. 20, 2013)

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

During the preparation for the manufacturing of fuel for a research reactor, the permissible amount of fuel was exceeded at a workplace. The company proposes to rate the event Level 1 on the INES scale. (Areva Feb. 6, 2013)

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Dec. 19, 2012, a vacuum cleaner used in a workshop for the production of uranium pellets at the FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant was found to have accumulated an excessive amount of dust. Areva proposes to rate the event Level 1 on the INES scale. (Areva Dec. 20, 2012)

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Sep. 26, 2012, the FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant declared a significant event, when wet material was transported inside the plant under the less stringent conditions applicable only for dry material - constituting a criticality hazard. The event was rated Level 1 of the INES scale. (ASN Sep. 27, 2012)
On Oct. 30, 2012, ASN re-rated the event Level 2 of the INES scale, after it turned out that the violation was no exception. (ASN Oct. 31, 2012)

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On April 10, 2012, the FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant declared a significant event, when the permissible amount of enriched UO2F2 powder was exceeded in a vacuum cleaner - presenting a criticality hazard. The event was rated Level 1 of the INES scale. (ASN April 12, 2012)

Uranium-containing slurries detected in rainwater collection system of FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Nov. 12, 2009, Areva notified the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) of the detection of uranium-containing slurries in the rainwater collection system of its FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant in Romans-sur-Isère. The origin of the slurries predates the separation of the rainwater collection system from the process waste water systems at the plant. The uranium concentrations found do not present a criticality hazard. There was no impact on workers nor the environment outside the plant. The incident was rated INES 1. (ASN Nov. 17, 2009)

Leak detected in sewage system of FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On July 17, 2008, Areva notified the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) of a break of an underground sewage system for uranium-containing liquids at its FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant in Romans-sur-Isère. An inspection held by ASN the same night reveiled that the rupture had occured years ago (!). Areva is currently busy cleaning up the contaminated area. ASN provisionally rated the event INES 1. (ASN July 18, 2008)

> Download detailed report about the incident by independent laboratory CRIIRAD: Commentaires sur l’incident du 17 juillet 2008: détection d’une fuite sur une canalisation à l’usine FBFC-CERCA (AREVA) de Romans-sur-Isère, Note CRIIRAD N°08-149 (July 21, 2008, PDF - in French)

FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant applies for capacity increase

FBFC - Framatome ANP's fuel subsidiary - has applied for a licence to expand capacity at its Romans fabrication plant. The company's current licence for the Romans plant limits it to 1200 tU in conversion (UF6 to UO2) and 820 tU in pelletizing and assembly. The licence application submitted would increase those limits to 1800 tU for conversion and 1400 tU for pelletizing and finishing operations. FBFC is modernizing the plant to meet new safety and radiation protection standards, partly through the use of more automated processes. (WNA News Briefing 04.05, Feb. 4, 2004)

Incidents at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Oct. 27, 2009, a small spill of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) occured at a conversion kiln. (ASN Nov. 2, 2009)

On June 3, 2008, the rules to prevent criticality were violated in the pelletizing workshop. Scrap UO2 material was held in waste containers exceeding the safe mass limit. The event was classified INES 1. (ASN June 20, 2008)

On Nov. 16, 2007, ENUSA (Spain) detected traces of leaked UO2 powder at some containers received from FBFC Romans. The event was classified INES 1.

On May 17, 2004, the rules to prevent criticality were violated: in the conversion plant, the UF6 feed was not interrupted, although the monitoring equipment for the humidity contained in the UO2 powder product was not functioning. However, no criticality occured. The event was classified INES 1.

On July 22, 2003, the rules to prevent criticality were violated: twice the licensed amount of uranium-235 was stored in a cask. No criticality occured. The event was classified INES 1.

On Feb. 21, 2003, the rules to prevent criticality were violated: a cask containing 41 kilograms of enriched uranium powder was stored in an area where only 27 kilograms were permitted. However, no criticality occured. The event was classified INES 1.

 


COGEMA EURODIF enrichment plant, Tricastin (Drôme, France)

Aerial view: Google Maps

INB No. 93
Information about Tricastin plant (Nuclear Safety Authority - ASN, in French)

> See also: DU exports of Eurodif's enrichment facility (France) · Upgrading of French enrichment tails in Russia
> See also: Tails Deconversion - Usine W, Pierrelatte, Drôme, France
> See also: Cogéma's Depleted Uranium Storage Project (France)
> See also: Areva Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant project, Tricastin (Drôme)

 

> View more recent issues

Goldman Sachs stored unenriched uranium hexafluoride at Eurodif enrichment plant

> View Goldman Sachs to wind down uranium trading business - after U.S. Senate report sheds some light on it, raising a number of issues

 

Eurodif gaseous diffusion plant at Tricastin halts uranium enrichment operations on June 7, 2012

Today, after 33 years of uninterrupted operation, EURODIF's Georges Besse enrichment plant, located in the Tricastin site in France's Drôme department and operated by AREVA, permanently ceased production at the end of the shutdown process begun last May 14. (Areva June 7, 2012)
The Eurodif gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant will finally halt enrichment operations at 03:30 hrs on June 7, 2012. It will be replaced by the Georges-Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant. (Le Figaro June 4, 2012)

Public inquiry on cleaning phase at Eurodif gaseous diffusion enrichment plant at Tricastin

On Dec. 19, 2011, Areva announced that a public inquiry will be held until Jan. 20, 2012, on the license amendment request to perform the cleaning phase at the Eurodif gaseous diffusion enrichment plant.
> Download related avis (Vaucluse - in French)
> View related documents (Areva - in French)

Eurodif gaseous diffusion enrichment plant at Tricastin to be closed in 2012 and dismantled

Eurodif's gaseous diffusion plant at Tricastin will be closed in 2012: after a five-month period of progressive shut down of the machines, the complete shut down is expected in October 2012.
In the subsequent cleaning phase, chlorine trifluoride will be injected into the machines to remove residual uranium. This will allow the recovery of 300 tonnes of uranium and reduce the radiation levels of the machines.
In the dismantling phase following from 2016, 130,000 tonnes of contaminated steel will have to be managed. Areva hopes to achieve a contamination level below 100 Bq/g, for the steel can be disposed at ANDRA's low-level radioactive waste site.
The decommissioning cost so far has been announced as Euro 600 million, but Areva now has re-evaluated the cost at Euro 725 million. The trade unions, though, talk about billions of Euros. (Le Dauphiné Libéré Sep. 16, 2011)

UF6 cylinder heated at Eurodif plant without connection to installations

On Aug. 8, 2011, a UF6 cylinder was heated at the Eurodif enrichment plant site for unloading, without being connected to the installations. The cylinder - a thin-wall model not suitable for transport purposes - contained depleted uranium hexafluoride that was to be transfered to a standard cylinder model. The pressure inside the cylinder did not exceed specifications and no UF6 was released. The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Aug. 8, 2011)

Faulty locking device at overpack of UF6 cylinder in yard of Eurodif enrichment plant - again

On July 19, 2011, in the yard of the Eurodif enrichment plant, an open locking device was found at the overpack of a cylinder loaded with liquid uranium hexafluoride, awaiting solidification of the contents.
The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN July 22, 2011)

Workers on strike at Eurodif enrichment plant

About 50 employees are on strike at Eurodif's Tricastin enrichment plant to protest against a reorganization of their work. (Le Parisien July 12, 2011)

UF6 container overfilled at Eurodif enrichment plant

On May 27, 2011, a container has been slightly overfilled with enriched UF6 product at the Eurodif enrichment plant in Tricastin. Eurodif has proposed to rate this event level 1 on the INES scale. (Midi Libre, May 30, 2011)
The authorized limit of 430 kg in the cristallisator was exceeded by 14 kg; the safety limit of 543 kg was not reached. (ASN June 1, 2011)

Faulty locking devices at overpack of UF6 cylinders

On March 25, 2011, ASN was notified by Areva that locking devices of overpacks of cylinders carrying natural and/or enriched uranium hexafluoride had inadvertently opened during transport in three cases in 2010 and 2011. Although the American designer of the locks had modified them in view of these incidents, Areva failed to implement these modifications. The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale.
> View ASN Avis d'indident May 12, 2011 [in French]

EURODIF enrichment plant to continue operation until end 2012

The EURODIF enrichment plant that had been scheduled for shutdown end 2010, will continue operation until end 2012, according to industry minister Eric Besson. (Les Echos Nov. 24, 2010)

Iran's stake in EURODIF enrichment plant called into question by U.N. sanctions

U.N. Security Council resolution 1929 , adopted in June, bans the sale of any stakes in uranium mines to Iran, as well as shares in any commercial operations linked to the production of nuclear materials or technology. It also says that "all states shall prohibit such investment." Council diplomats told Reuters that the latest steps clearly ban the sale of new stakes to Iran but are less clear on whether any previously held Iranian stakes in uranium mines or other nuclear-related operations should be divested. (The Namibian Oct. 19, 2010)
Iran owns a 10% stake in Eurodif through its 40% stake in SOFIDIF.

> See also: Iran's stake in Rössing uranium mine causing headaches in view of U.N. santions (Namibia)

Crystallizer overfilled at Eurodif enrichment plant - again

On 27 Mar. 2010, following an alert from a gauge at a crystallizer of the Pierrelatte plant, Eurodif noted an excess amount of product in this receptacle, approx. 30 kgs above the 700 kg operational limit. The safety limit of 1485 kgs has never been attained. The crystallizer serves to separate the uranium hexafluoride from other unwanted gases present in the diffusion installation. The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Apr. 1, 2010)

Crystallizer overfilled at Eurodif enrichment plant

On 24 Feb. 2010, following an alert from a gauge at a crystallizer of the Pierrelatte plant, Eurodif noted an excess amount of product in this receptacle, approx. 30 kgs above the 700 kg operational limit. The safety limit of 1485 kgs has never been attained. The crystallizer serves to separate the uranium hexafluoride from other unwanted gases present in the diffusion installation. The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Mar. 15, 2010)

Violation of criticality rules at Eurodif enrichment plant

On Jan. 29, 2009, inspectors of the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) found that four barrels with fissile waste material were inadequately stored. No criticality occured. The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale. (Areva Feb. 3, 2009; ASN Feb. 11, 2009)

Tricastin nuclear site partly flooded

In the early morning of Dec. 15, 2008, a rapid rise of the Gaffière river crossing the Tricastin site led to partial flooding of several installations on the site, in particular the SOCATRI facilities. Areva subsidiary Société auxiliaire du Tricastin (SOCATRI) operates an effluent treatment plant mainly for the Eurodif enrichment plant. The water level rise was caused by heavy precipitation and water regulation measures of upstream dams. (ASN Dec. 15, 2008)

French wine appellation "Coteaux du Tricastin" wins name change after uranium spill

A French wine that shared its name with a nearby problem-plagued nuclear power plant on Wednesday (June 9, 2010) won the right to change its designation. The Tricastin wines of southern France will now be known as the Grignan-Les Adhemar, according to a ruling from the powerful Inao agency tasked with regulating French agricultural products. The decision capped a two-year campaign by wine producers to change the wine's official designation after a series of minor accidents at the Tricastin nuclear plant made headlines in 2008. The decision will not come into effect immediately as there is a two-month period during which any opponent of the ruling can come forward.
Despite several soil and water tests that confirmed there was no radiation poisoning in the vineyards from the 2008 accident, the Tricastin wines never managed to recover. Production has dropped 40 per cent over the past two years. (AFP June 9, 2010)

An appellation in the south of France is looking to change its name in order to avoid being associated with a uranium leak at a nuclear power station in the same region. The Coteaux du Tricastin appellation, which neighbours Côtes du Rhône Villages, has resented its association with Tricastin Nuclear Power Centre for some time. Henri Bour, head of the Coteaux du Tricastin appellation, told French news website nouvelobs.com that the region has wanted to change its name 'for about ten years'.
The push for a name change follows the intense media coverage of a uranium leak at the Tricastin nuclear site earlier this month. 'Now, it's useless for a producer to try to sell a bottle of Coteaux du Tricastin - people would laugh in their face,' said Brice Eymard, head of the economic department at the Rhône wine trade body, InterRhône.
A meeting of the administrative appellation council is set for 5 August, where members will discuss the possibility of changing the name Tricastin to Grignan, a local village in the center of the region. (Decanter July 24, 2008)

Uranium-containing waste liquid spills at Tricastin nuclear site

During the night of July 7, 2008, 30 cubic meters of liquid containing 12 grams of uranium per litre (totalling 360 kg of uranium), spilled for unknown reasons from a holding tank at the effluent treatment plant of the Tricastin nuclear site. The effluents seeped into the soil and partly reached the "la Gaffière" river, and then the "le Lauzon" river. The resulting uranium concentration in the "la Gaffière" river was measured at approx. 1000 times normal background. The effluent treatment plant is operated by Areva subsidiary Société auxiliaire du Tricastin (SOCATRI), mainly for the Eurodif enrichment plant. (ASN July 8, 2008)

On July 11, 2008, in a rare move, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) ordered the shutdown of SOCATRI's uranium effluent treatment plant (STEU). At an inspection held on July 10, 2008, ASN had found that the measures taken to prevent any further spills are not satisfactory and that the information given by the licensee to the authority was incomplete. ASN further announced to sue the licensee for the deficiencies identified.
From the announcements made, it is unclear whether the shutdown will have any impacts on the operation of Eurodif's enrichment plant.

On July 16, 2008, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) announced that groundwater and surface water monitoring results had returned to normal except for two locations. Apparently, these higher values are not related to the recent spill, however. A recently completed IRSN study had already identified a few locations with elevated uranium concentrations in groundwater, the source of which has not yet been identified.

On June 17, 2010, the public prosecutor's office requested an EUR 100,000 penalty against Areva's subsidiary SOCATRI and the shutdown of the litigious section of the plant. (Le Monde June 17, 2010)

The Tribunal de Grande Instance of Carpentras (Vaucluse) has ruled that SOCATRI is not guilty of water pollution, but it has imposed a EUR 40,000 penalty for neglect to notify the authorities of the accident immediately. (Le Figaro Oct. 14, 2010)

Appeals court finds Areva guilty of 2008 uranium spill in Tricastin and imposes 300,000 EUR fine: Socatri, a subsidiary company of Areva, was found guilty Thursday (Sep. 29) of the offence of "discharge of toxic substances in groundwater" after a uranium spill in July 2008. In its order, the Court of Appeal of Nîmes condemned Socatri to a fine of 300,000 Euros, and to the payment of 20,000 Euros of damages to each association among the plaintiffs, including Sortir du Nucléaire, Amis de la Terre, Greenpeace and France Nature. In addition, Socatri will have to pay 10,000 Euros to ten residents. (Le Monde Sep. 30, 2011)

Court of Cassation upholds conviction of Areva for 2008 uranium spill in Tricastin: On November 26, the Court of Cassation dismissed the appeal filed by Areva Socatri after its conviction for water pollution as a result of the significant uranium spill that occurred in July 2008 at the Socatri Tricastin plant. (Sortir du Nucléaire Nov. 27, 2013)

> See also related information from

Public enquiry into abatement of flooding hazard at Areva's Tricastin site

Areva intends to perform protective measures against the flooding hazard in case of heavy precipitation at the Tricastin site, in particular from the Gaffière creek crossing the site and from a canal next to the site.
From Feb. 18, to March 21, 2008, the project is subject of a public enquiry held in the surrounding communities. (Areva Feb. 18, 2008)

Unexpected criticality hazard found in Tricastin enrichment plant

During maintenance work, on Dec. 4, 2007, an unexpected deposit of uranyl fluoride (UO2F2) was detected inside a crystallization unit used to fill the enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6) into the product transport cylinders. The presence of uranyl fluoride in this unit had not been foreseen in the safety analysis of the plant. Such a deposit of uranyl fluoride might lead to a criticality event, in particular in the presence of water. A likely cause for the formation of the uranyl fluoride deposit was the entry of water into the equipment. The event was rated Level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Dec. 11, 2007, Areva Dec. 6, 2007)

Areva presents study on health risks for residents from operation of nuclear facilities at the Tricastin site

In July 2007, Areva presented a study performed by Institut National de l’Environnement Industriel et des Risques (INERIS) in March 2006 on possible health impacts of the operation of the nuclear facilities located at the Tricastin site, in particular the existing Georges Besse I and the future Georges Besse II enrichment plants, the Comurhex conversion plant, and the Socatri and Pierrelatte nuclear fuel facilities. The study investigated only the hazards for residents, limited to the hazards from chemical toxicity occuring during regular operation of the facilities. According to the study, none of the risks investigated are causing concern.

> Download Etude d’évaluation des risques sanitaires (ERS) (in French)

Évaluation des risques sanitaires liés au fonctionnement des établissements AREVA de la plateforme du Tricastin: usines Georges Besse I et II, SOCATRI, COGEMA Pierrelatte et COMURHEX (1er niveau d'approche), Bilan des études sanitaires, Rapport final, par Corinne MANDIN, Institut National de l’Environnement Industriel et des Risques (INERIS), Mars 2006

Regulator cites Eurodif for failure to report criticality-related event in enrichment plant

By letter dated March 29, 2007, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) demands an explanation from Eurodif, why the violation of a criticality-related criterion had not been reported to the authority. In January 2007, the boron concentration in the cooling water of the enrichment cascades had fallen below the permissible level. This might have resulted in a criticality excursion (an uncontrolled chain reaction accompanied by heavy radiation releases) in the plant. While Eurodif restored the boron concentration upon discovery of the condition, Eurodif failed to report the event to ASN. This failure was only discovered by ASN during an inspection on March 26, 2007.

Kazatomprom to obtain share in French enrichment plant in exchange for uranium deliveries?

> See here

Elevated radiation found around Tricastin nuclear site

The independent radiation monitoring group CRII-RAD identified external radiation doses up to 20-fold above natural background at several locations around the Tricastin site of nuclear installations. The site comprises, among others, the Eurodif enrichment plant. CRII-RAD suggests that the source of the excess radiation observed is nuclear material stockpiled on site.

> View CRII-RAD release Oct 8, 2002 (in French)
> Download CRII-RAD monitoring results (PDF, in French)

France to abandon development of atomic vapour laser enrichment technology

Development of the Silva atomic vapour laser isotope separation process will cease by 2003, the Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique (CEA) announced. Instead, the CEA will resume R&D work on gas centrifuge enrichment technology that was suspended in 1983, when research efforts were focussed on laser enrichment technology. CEA Administrator General Pascal Colombani said that Silva proved 'difficult to implement and had an uncertain commercial future'. (UI News Briefing 01.07, Feb. 14, 2001)

Incidents at Tricastin enrichment plant

Tricastin events (ASN, in French)
 

AREVA Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant project, Tricastin (Drôme)

Stability 'anomaly' identified in flood protection dike at Areva Tricastin site

As part of the experience feedback following the Fukushima accident and supplementary safety assessments, EDF studied the earthquake resistance of the flood protection dams around the Tricastin plant. The complementary geotechnical investigations carried out revealed an anomaly on a limited portion of a dike located upstream of the EDF power station and the AREVA Tricastin site, concerning an area of sand layers liable to be destabilized in the event of a major earthquake (Séisme Majoré de Sécurité), while confirming its holding at the Historically Likely Maximal Earthquake. (Areva Aug. 22, 2017)
On Aug. 28, 2017, nuclear safety authority ASN rated this event Level 1 on the INES scale.

Storage yard for 62,000 tonnes of uranium licensed at Areva Tricastin site

On March 7, 2017, nuclear safety authority ASN licensed installation nucléaire de base nº 178, called Parcs uranifères du Tricastin. The license allows for the storage of up to 62,000 tonnes of uranium with a maximum enrichment of 5% U-235. For uranium recovered from spent nuclear fuel by reprocessing, the concentration of the isotope U-232 is limited to 3.5 ng/g [2772 Bq/g] uranium, unless the uranium is in the form of UF6, for which the limit is 50 ng/g [39,605 Bq/g] uranium.
> Download: Décision CODEP-CLG-2017-009844 du président de l'Autorité de sûreté nucléaire du 7 mars 2017 fixant à AREVA NC des prescriptions pour l'installation nucléaire de base no 178 dénommée Parcs uranifères du Tricastin, exploitée par AREVA NC sur le site du Tricastin dans les communes de Pierrelatte et de Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux (département de la Drôme) , 7 mars 2017 (in French)

Areva's Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant reaches full capacity

The Areva Georges Besse II enrichment plant successfully reached its full production capacity of 7.5 million SWUs in 2016, on schedule as planned. (Areva Jan. 18, 2017)

Violation of criticality rules at Areva's Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant

On Oct. 17, 2016, a detector for condensation inside an autoclave used for sampling at Areva's Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant was found to be inoperable. The detector is meant to confirm the absence of water which might compromise criticality safety in case of a leak of uranium hexafluoride inside the autoclave. The nuclear safety authority ASN has classified this event at level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Jan. 16, 2017)

Hexafluoride cylinders without valve protection cover found at Areva's Georges Besse II enrichment plant

On July 1, 2016, four uranium hexafluoride containers in a storage yard were found to have no valve protection covers. The nuclear safety authority ASN has classified this event at level 1 on the INES scale. (Areva July 18, 2016 / ASN July 26, 2016)

Violation of criticality rules at Areva's Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant

On March 2, 2016, a violation of critiality rules occured with the transport of nuclear material within the facility. The nuclear safety authority ASN has classified this event at level 1 on the INES scale. (Areva Mar. 29, 2016 / ASN Apr. 1, 2016)

Deformed cylinder valve found at UF6 cylinder at Areva Tricastin site

During testing prior to weighing a cylinder holding enriched uranium hexafluoride in the Reconditioning, Sampling and Control workshop (RECII) to obtain a sample of the substance, an operator found that the cylinder filling valve was distorted.
Investigations immediately confirmed the absence of a leak at the cylinder. However, it was immediately transferred to the workshop's maintenance station to replace the affected valve.
The cause of the deformation and the time when it occured remain unknown.
The nuclear safety authority ASN has classified this event at level 1 on the INES scale. (Areva Mar. 7, 2016 / ASN Mar. 10, 2016)

Violation of criticality rules at Areva's Tricastin site

On Dec. 10, 2015, Areva announced that the mass of slightly enriched uranium held in a storage area at the AREVA Tricastin site exceeded the permitted 180 kg. Areva proposes to rate the event Level 1 on the INES scale. (Areva Dec. 10, 2015)

Small release of uranium hexafluoride from a cylinder valve at Areva's Tricastin site

On Nov. 19, 2015, an operator has identified a slight release of fumes from the valve of a cylinder holding uranium hexafluoride of natural uranium isotopic composition stored in a yard at the AREVA Tricastin site. Areva proposes to rate the event Level 1 on the INES scale. (Areva Nov. 19, 2015)

Violation of criticality rules at Areva's Tricastin site

On Sep. 3, 2015, Areva's subsidiary SOCATRI declared two criticality safety-related events. SOCATRI performs auxiliary services at the Tricastin site, performing maintenance of parts containing radioactive material and operating an effluent treatment plant. The events refer to failures discovered by an ASN inspection on June 25, 2015, concerning a missing formal prohibition to bring more than one lot of radioactive material into one workshop, and the missing double analysis of effluents arriving at the treatment station. (ASN Sep. 8, 2015)

Parliamentary commission doubts profitability of Areva's Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant project

On July 8, 2015, the financial commission of the French parliament released a report on Areva. The report in particular doubts the profitability of the Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant project, in view of the decline of the SWU market price by 30% between 2009 and 2013, while the cost for the plant increased by 43% from EUR 2.8 billion to EUR 4 billion between 2006 and 2013. (Le Devoir July 7, 2015)
> Download financial commission report No. 2952 , July 15, 2015 (Assemblée Nationale - in French)

Violation of criticality rules at Areva's Tricastin site

A small sample of enriched uranium slightly exceeded the allowable 5% enrichment margin during an internal transport from the production site to a laboratory. Areva proposes to rate the event Level 1 on the INES scale. (Areva Dec. 10, 2014)
The Nuclear Safety Authority ASN confirmed this rating on Dec. 17, 2014.

Flawed UF6 cylinder tests at Areva's Tricastin site

The tightness of empty UF6 cylinders at Areva's Tricastin site has been tested with insufficient pressure. Areva proposes to rate the event Level 1 on the INES scale. (Areva Oct. 24, 2014)

Activists hold blockade of Tricastin site

After having awaited in vain the arrival of trucks from the Malvési conversion plant, members of Sortir du nucléaire and CAN 84, supported by Greenpeace, blocked the access to the Tricastin site. (le Dauphiné Libéré June 20, 2013)

Violation of criticality rules at Areva's Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant

During maintenance works in the Société d'Enrichissement du Tricastin (SET), a default calibration was found on a weighing equipment used to control the absence of matter in pumps after use [to prevent a criticality by uncontrolled accumulation of enriched uranium]. Installed at the end of the enrichment process these pumps transfer uranium to the storage containers. Areva proposes to rate the event Level 1 on the INES scale. (Areva May 21, 2013; ASN May 25, 2013)

Violation of criticality rules at Areva's Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant

Due to a miscalibration of minimum flow stop valves, the withdrawal rate of enriched uranium hexafluoride from the centrifuges could have become too low, increasing the assay beyond critiality safety margins. The event was rated Level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Apr. 8, 2013)

Areva launches commercial production of Georges Besse II North centrifuge uranium enrichment plant

On March 29, 2013, Areva celebrated the commercial launch of the Georges Besse II North uranium enrichment plant at the Tricastin site. The North plant enters into service two years after the South plant in accordance with the project schedule.
Georges Besse II is being ramped-up gradually to have an enrichment capacity of 7.5 million SWU per year by 2016. (Areva Mar. 29, 2013)

Areva suspends capacity increase at Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant

On Dec. 13, 2011, Areva announced the suspension of the capacity increase at the Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant at Tricastin. (Le Monde Dec. 13, 2011)

Areva offers India stake in Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant

Global nuclear power major Areva is open to giving a minority stake in its uranium enrichment plant to Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL). Though a formal offer has not yet been made, a senior Areva executive said the two companies have held informal discussions on the proposal. (Business Standard Dec. 18, 2010)

Georges Besse II enrichment plant inaugurated

The Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant was inaugurated on Dec. 14, 2010. The plant's production capacity will now be increased by adding further modules. Full capacity is expected in 2016, two years ahead of schedule. It will have a production capacity of 7.5 million SWU (Separative Work Units), which could be increased to 11 million SWU. (Areva Dec. 14, 2010)

Further Japanese companies acquire equity stake in Areva's Georges Besse II enrichment plant project

Tohoku Electric Power and Kyushu Electric Power will use the Japan France Enrichment Investing Company to acquire 2% of the outstanding shares in Société d'Enrichissement du Tricastin (SET) Holding. This means that the Japan France Enrichment Investing Company will come to hold 4.5% of SET Holding outstanding shares.
The Kansai Electric Power Co., Inc. and Sojitz Corporation previously announced on March 30, 2009 their official participation in a new uranium enrichment plant project advanced by AREVA NC of France. Under that plan, the companies worked through Kansai Sojitz Enrichment Investing (a joint venture formed with an equity breakdown of 80% by Kansai Electric and 20% by Sojitz) to acquire 2.5% of the outstanding shares of SET Holdings (a subsidiary of AREVA NC), with that deal completed on June 30, 2009. (Asahi Nov. 4, 2010)

First cascade of Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant starts operation

On Dec. 9, 2009, Areva announced that it has started the operation of the first cascade of the Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant project.

Areva's Georges-Besse II uranium enrichment plant will dispose of section to enrich recycled uranium

According to a speaker of Electricité de France (EDF), the Georges-Besse II centrifuge uranium enrichment plant, currently under construction and to be completed by 2012, will provide the capability to enrich recycled uranium recovered from spent fuel. (Le Monde Oct. 12, 2009)

Areva open to Georges-Besse II uranium enrichment plant investors - report

French nuclear group Areva is ready to welcome new investors in the capital of its Georges-Besse II (GB II) uranium enrichment plant, a senior manager told French newspaper Les Echos. "We would be glad if Italy and Spain joined us, and we could also look elsewhere," said Francois-Xavier Rouxel, executive vice-president of Areva's enrichment business. (Reuters July 21, 2009)

Korean utility acquires equity stake in Areva's Georges Besse II enrichment plant project

On June 15, 2009, Areva announced that it has signed an agreement with Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co. Ltd. (KHNP) under which the South Korean utility is to take a 2.5% stake in the Société d'Enrichissement du Tricastin (SET) holding which operates the Georges Besse II enrichment plant. KHNP is a subsidiary of Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), a wholly government-owned corporation.

First centrifuge cascade of Georges Besse II uranium enrichment plant inaugurated

On May 18, 2009, the first centrifuge cascade of the Georges Besse II uranium enrichment plant was inaugurated, where production is set to commence this year. (Areva)

Japanese companies acquire equity stake in AREVA's Georges Besse II enrichment plant project

On March 30, 2009, Areva announced that the Japanese corporations Kansai and Sojitz have signed an agreement with AREVA under which they will acquire a 2.5% share in the holding company of Société d'Enrichissement du Tricastin (SET), the operator of the Georges Besse II enrichment plant.

Areva accelerates domestic centrifuge enrichment plant project

Areva has made a decision to launch the construction of a second unit of the Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant project within a few weeks, rather than in 2012, as previously planned. The unit will have a capacity of 3.2 million SWU; the completion is now foreseen for 2016, rather than 2018. (Les Echos Dec. 11, 2008)

Suez acquires an equity stake in Areva's new Georges Besse II centrifuge uranium enrichment plant

Suez and Areva have signed an agreement giving Suez 5% ownership interest in the company that holds the Georges Besse II uranium enrichment plant. Suez, through its Energy Services business line, is building the electrical installations, and supplying the fluid management systems and the HVAC and process cooling equipment of the new plant, which is scheduled for startup in 2009. With the agreement, Suez will be able to secure a portion of its nuclear reactor supply needs in enriched uranium. Georges Besse II is one of France's largest current industrial investments, representing a total of close to EUR 3 billion. (Suez/Areva Jun. 3, 2008)

Areva presents study on health risks for residents from operation of nuclear facilities at the Tricastin site

> View here

Construction commences at Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant

Construction of the first section of the Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant has commenced. First production is expected in 2009. (Le Dauphiné Libéré, 29 Oct. 2006)

Areva and Urenco announce creation of Joint Venture ETC (Enrichment Technology Company)

On July 3, 2006, Areva and Urenco signed the agreement to settle ETC (Enrichment Technology Company), the Joint Venture between Areva and Urenco in the field of uranium enrichment centrifuge technology. The Joint Venture is now effective with the acquisition by Areva of a 50% equity stake in ETC. This opens the way for the construction of the new Georges Besse II enrichment plant. (Areva July 3, 2006)

Kazatomprom to obtain share in French enrichment plant in exchange for uranium deliveries?

> See here

Dutch parliament to vote on agreement giving Areva access to Urenco's centrifuge enrichment technology

In March 2006, the lower house (Tweede Kamer) of the Durch parliament will vote on the Cardiff Agreement which will give Areva/Cogéma access to Urenco's centrifuge enrichment technology, while excluding access to classified design information. The agreement extends the 1970 Almelo Treaty which is the basis of the trilateral Urenco consortium. The agreement, while excluding the enrichment of uranium for nuclear bombs, would allow for the enrichment of uranium for France's nuclear navy.
In the United Kingdom, the Cardiff Agreement was presented to Parliament in October 2005 and ratified before the end of the year. (Nuclear Fuel Jan. 16, 2006)
The German government approved the Cardiff Agreement on October 15, 2005; involvement of parliament was not deemed necessary. (MdB Johannes Pflug, Feb. 15, 2006)

Agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the French Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany and the Kingdom of the Netherlands regarding collaboration in centrifuge technology: Cardiff, 12 July 2005 (UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office - 399k PDF)

European Commission approves Areva/Urenco centrifuge enrichment venture

On Oct. 6, 2004, the European Commission decided that French government-owned Areva may acquire a stake in Urenco's subsidiary Enrichment Technology Co Ltd (ETC). The approval was given on the condition that the companies would act independently on capacity increases, and that Euratom surveillance would be strengthened. (Dow Jones Oct. 6, 2004)

COMMISSION DECISION of 06.10.2004 declaring a concentration to be compatible with the common market and the functioning of the EEA Agreement (Case No COMP/M.3099 Areva/Urenco/ETC JV) (276k PDF)

Public Debate on Eurodif centrifuge enrichment plant project

From 1 September to 22 October 2004, a public debate was held in the departments of Drôme, Gard, Vaucluse, and Ardèche, neighbouring the planned centrifuge enrichment plant "Georges Besse II" in southern France.

Débat public sur le projet Georges Besse II (in French)
> Download: Le dossier du maître d'ouvrage (in French)

> See also: Communiqué du Réseau Sortir du nucléaire (1 Sep 2004) (in French)

European Commission extends probe into Areva/Urenco venture

The European Commission has launched a detailed investigation into Areva's proposed acquisition of a 50% stake in Enrichment Technology Company (ETC). At this stage, the Commission is concerned that the joint venture may result in less R&D with regards to centrifugation technology and lead to higher prices for enriched uranium used for fuel in nuclear power plants. (European Commission June 22, 2004)

AREVA secures Urenco's gas centrifuge technology and launches new enrichment plant project

COGEMA's parent company AREVA Group signed an agreement with URENCO shareholders on Nov. 24, 2003, under which it will acquire a 50% equity interest in Enrichment Technology Company (ETC). ETC comprises all of URENCO's centrifuge design and manufacturing activities as well as its R&D in the field of centrifuge equipment and installations for uranium enrichment to produce nuclear fuel.
A new enrichment plant, to be named Georges Besse II, will be built at the Tricastin site with a total investment around EUR 3 billion. Production capacity will be increased gradually starting in 2007 and reach its nominal level around 2016. The actual construction is expected to get under way in early 2005, once government authorizations have been obtained and relevant international treaties have been modified allowing AREVA to take an equity interest in ETC. This is supposed to be done in the 4th quarter of 2004. (Areva Nov. 26, 2003)

COGEMA considering new centrifuge enrichment plant at Tricastin (France)

COGEMA's parent company AREVA made a first step to abandon uranium enrichment by gaseous diffusion. In a Memorandum of Understanding, URENCO and AREVA have agreed to develop plans for working together in the field of centrifuge technology for uranium enrichment. The companies envisage a 50-50 joint venture to build a new centrifuge enrichment plant that would progessively replace the existing Tricastin plant capacity beginning from 2007. (Areva/Les Echos Oct 9, 2002)

"COGEMA's enrichment subsidiary Eurodif, reportedly in partnership with Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute, is considering building a centrifuge enrichment facility at COGEMA's Tricastin site. Yves Coupin, head of COGEMA's uranium division, stated that additional centrifuge units would 'complement' the existing gaseous diffusion units and allow more flexibility in adjusting capacity to meet market demand. Coupin also said that initial SILVA capacity under the joint COGEMA/CEA laser enrichment research venture could come into operation before the end of next decade." (UI News Briefing 98.44, see also FreshFUEL 11/9/98 )


 


AREVA NC uranium conversion plant, Malvési (Narbonne, Aude, France)

(formerly Comurhex)

Aerial View: Google Maps

> See also: Comité Local d'Information et de Concertation (CLIC) Malvési (DREAL Languedoc-Roussillon - in French)
> See also: Plan de Prévention des Risques Technologiques (PPRT) Comurhex (DREAL Languedoc-Roussillon - in French)
> See also: Refluorination of depleted uranium oxide at Comurhex Malvési and Pierrelatte plants, France

 

Activists block train leaving Areva's Malvési conversion plant

A train leaving Areva's Malvési conversion plant near Narbonne for Areva's Tricastin site was blocked by some 20 anti-nuclear activists from 9:30 to noon on April 15, 2017. The activists called for "a public debate on nuclear power". (Radio France Apr. 15, 2017)

French Radiation Protection Institute notes sharp increase of contamination incidents with transport drums holding uranium ore concentrate, demands improvement of filling procedure at Areva's overseas mines

In its latest biennial report on the safety of transports with radioactive material, the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) noted a sharp increase in contamination incidents with imported drums holding uranium ore concentrate. These drums were filled at Areva's overseas mines and transported to the Malvési conversion plant.
The incidents consisted of minor spills of uranium ore concentrate found on the drums or on the means of transport. While there was no such incident in 2010 and one incident each in 2011 and 2012, the numbers since increased to four incidents in 2013, seven in 2014, and five in 2015.
IRSN therefore demands higher vigilance and corrective actions from Areva concerning the process of filling and closing the drums at its overseas mines.
> Download: Sûreté des transports de substances radioactives à usage civil sur le territoire français en 2014 et 2015 , Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire, Dec. 2016 (2.8 MB PDF - in French)

Public inquiry into proposed nitrate treatment plant at Areva's Malvési conversion plant

On Sep. 5, 2016, a public inquiry was opened into Areva's prosposal to construct a nitrate treatment plant for the liquids held in the evaporation ponds at its Malvési conversion plant. The proposed Thermal Organic Reduction scheme will produce a solid waste that is to be transferred to ANDRA's CIRES site for very low level radioactive waste.
Submit comments by October 5, 2016.
> Download related documents (Aude Dept. - in French)

Major spill of uranyl nitrate at Areva's Malvési conversion plant

On July 7, 2016, almost the complete contents of a vessel containing 41.8 m3 of a uranyl nitrate solution spilled during maintenance works. The major part of the spilled solution (37 m3) was collected in the sump, but 4.5 m3 (containing 110 kg of uranium) spilled on the ground and reached the rainwater collection system.
Areva proposed to rate the event level 0 on the INES scale, but ASN actually rated it level 1. (ASN Oct. 14, 2016)

Transport of UF4 from Malvési to Tricastin switched from road to rail

The commissioning of rail transport became effective early 2015. A weekly exchange of 20 cylinders of uranium tetrafluoride (UF4 - purified natural uranium) between Malvési and Tricastin replaces many daily road transports. (Rapport d'information du site AREVA Tricastin, Édition 2015, Areva, June 2016)

French Nuclear Safety Authority demands Areva to present proposal for management of future waste arisings at Malvési conversion plant site

Given that there exists no disposal path for the future arisings of waste slurries from operation of the Malvési conversion plant, the French Nuclear Safety Authority ASN demands Areva to present a management strategy for these wastes. For waste slurries arising from 2019, ASN demands to consider them as wastes of low specific activity with long half-lives (FA-VL).
Concerning current investigations by the national radioactive waste management agency ANDRA for the possibility of an additional slurry pond on the territory of the community of Soulaines (the only one that permitted the necessary geological investigations...), ASN demands a more thorough investigation of the underground of the site than performed so far.
> View: ASN release April 6, 2016 (in French)
> Download: Avis nº 2016-AV-264 de l'Autorité de sûreté nucléaire du 29 mars 2016 sur les études relatives à la gestion des déchets de faible activité à vie longue (FA-VL) remises en application du Plan national de gestion des matières et des déchets radioactifs 2013-2015, en vue de l'élaboration du Plan national de gestion des matières et des déchets radioactifs 2016-2018
> Download: Gestion à long terme des déchets à produire du procédé de conversion, PNGMDR 2013 - 2015, Rapport d'études, AREVA - Andra, Mars 2015 (633k PDF - in French)

French Nuclear Safety Authority demands Areva to present inventory of legacy wastes found at Malvési conversion plant site

The French Nuclear Safety Authority ASN demands Areva to present a physical and radiological inventory of historic wastes found in the Zone G of the Malvési site.
> View: ASN release April 6, 2016 (in French)
> Download: Avis nº 2016-AV-0255 de l'Autorité de sûreté nucléaire du 9 février 2016 sur les études relatives à la gestion des stockages historiques remises en application du plan national de gestion des matières et des déchets radioactifs 2013-2015, en vue de l'élaboration du plan national de gestion des matières et des déchets radioactifs 2016-2018
> Download: Gestion à long terme des déchets historiques du procédé de conversion, PNGMDR 2013 - 2015, Rapport d'avancement, AREVA - Site de Malvési (11), Décembre 2014 (3.0MB PDF - in French)

Protests in Germany along transport route of uranium ore concentrate destined for Areva's Malvési conversion plant in France

In the evening of Sep. 14, 2015, a train carrying 14 containers with uranium ore concentrate left Hamburg for Areva's Malvési conversion plant in Southern France. The uranium had arrived at the Hamburg port in the morning onboard the vessel "Mikahil Dudin". Vigils are held at several locations along the expected transport route. (Sofa Münster Sep. 14, 2015)

High Court condemns Areva for disregard of environmental regulations at Malvési conversion plant

On Sep. 10, 2015, AREVA (formerly Comurhex) was condemned by the High Court of Narbonne for the disregard of environmental regulations established to prevent health and environmental hazards. AREVA is guilty of at least 20 environmental violations. During six years (since 2009), important technical requirements were totally ignored - particularly regarding prevention of air pollution and pollution and soil water.
For example, the company has never carried out continuous monitoring of NOx emissions (nitrogen oxides) from its incinerator into the atmosphere. Similarly, while handling hazardous products on a daily basis, the company has always stored them in areas without any retention. (France Nature Environnement Sep. 10, 2015)

ASN issues new license for improperly licensed waste storage ponds at Areva's Malvési conversion plant

By decree issued July 20, 2015, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN authorized Areva to construct and operate a waste storage pond for 400,000 cubic metres of conversion plant residues as a nuclear base installation (installation nucléaire de base - INB).
In Dec. 2009, ASN had withdrawn control over existing basins B1 and B2 from Areva, as they were not properly authorized; a public inquiry into the new license was held in 2013 (see below).
> View: ASN release July 31, 2014 (in French)
> View: Decree of July 20, 2015 (in French)

Protest in Narbonne against rail transport of uranium ore concentrate

In the morning of Feb. 13, 2015, around 60 people gathered in front of the station of Narbonne to protest against the expected passing of a train, carrying a load of uranium ore concentrate from the Hamburg port to the Malvési conversion plant. The uranium ore concentrate originated from Namibia. (La Dépêche du Midi Feb. 14, 2015)

Atmospheric deposition causes high activities of uranium and thorium nuclides in plant samples near Areva's Malvési conversion plant, study finds

"Uranium and thorium isotopes were measured in cypress leaves, wheat grains and lettuce taken in the surroundings of the uranium conversion facility of Malvési (South of France). The comparison of activity levels and activity ratios (namely 238U/232Th and 230Th/232Th) in plants with those in aerosols taken at this site and plants taken far from it shows that aerosols emitted by the nuclear site (uranium releases in the atmosphere by stacks and 230Th-rich particles emitted from artificial ponds collecting radioactive waste mud) accounts for the high activities recorded in the plant samples close to the site. The atmospheric deposition process onto the plants appears to be the dominant process in plant contamination. Dry deposition velocities of airborne uranium and thorium were measured as 4.6 10-3 and 5.0 10-3 m s-1, respectively."
Environmental consequences of uranium atmospheric releases from fuel cycle facility: II. The atmospheric deposition of uranium and thorium on plants, by Pourcelot, L; Masson, O; Renaud, P; et al., in: Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, Dec. 10, 2014 (aheadofprint)

Goldman Sachs stored uranium ore concentrate at Malvési conversion plant

> View Goldman Sachs to wind down uranium trading business - after U.S. Senate report sheds some light on it, raising a number of issues

Public inquiry into new license for improperly licensed waste storage ponds at Malvési conversion plant

On Nov. 21, 2013, the public inquiry started on the requested licensing of two waste storage ponds at the Malvési conversion plant as an Installation Nucléaire de Base (INB). On Dec. 22, 2009, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) had determined that the current license as an Installation Classée is insufficient for the decantation and storage basins B1 and B2 (see below).
Areva no longer wants to use these two basins for the decantation of new wastes. Given that a repository for the ultimate disposal of this waste material is not yet available in France, Areva rather plans to secure the basins for intermediate storage for a period of 30 years. Areva intends to accomplish this by placing a bituminous cover on top of the basins. In addition, the southern part of basin B2 is to host a disposal cell for wastes arising from the emptying of decantation basins B5 and B6.
Submit comments by December 30, 2013.
> Download Public inquiry documents (Aude - in French)
> View/download Public inquiry documents (Areva - in French)

Activists block UF4 transport leaving Malvési conversion plant

In the morning of Sep. 12, 2013, several activists of Réseau Sortir du nucléaire blocked a truck at the exit of the Comurhex Malvési conversion plant for almost one hour. The truck was transporting uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) to the site of Tricastin.
"We want to alert officials and the public about the fact that every day, three to five trucks carrying uranium tetrafluoride use the A7 and A9 motorways without special protection and in total obscurity", denounced Laura Hameaux, member of the network which brings together 940 associations. The demonstrators, belonging in particular to the group Stop Uranium, distributed leaflets denouncing the transport that can come, they say, up to "60 tonnes" of tetrafluoride per day. (La Dépêche Sep. 12, 2013)
Upon arrival of the truck, activists equipped with a counter started to perform radiation measurements. The "normal" level of radioactivity observed in the open air before the arrival of the truck was 60 nSv/h. At a distance of 1 metre from the truck, 2800 nSv/h could be measured. In contact with the container, the counter climbed to 7200 nSv/h, that is 120 times natural background. (Réseau Sortir du nucléaire Sep. 12, 2013)

On Feb. 20, 2014, the Criminal Court of Narbonne found an antinuclear activist guilty of blocking a transport of uranium tetrafluoride destined for the nuclear site of Tricastin, but the activist was exempted from punishment. (L'Express Feb. 20, 2014)

Activists hold blockade of Comurhex Malvési conversion plant

A group named Stop Nucléaire held a blockade of the Comurhex site in Narbonne during two hours. The activists demand more transparency on the road transports of uranium. (La Dépêche June 20, 2013)

Comurhex Malvési conversion plant obtains approval for capacity increase

On Aug. 1, 2012, the prefect of Aude issued order No. 2012107-0006, authorizing the capacity increase of the Comurhex Malvési conversion plant from 14,000 to 21,000 t U in the form of UF4 per year.
The order defines a maximum acceptable activity concentration of 1 Bq/g for plutonium-239 in the uranium feed for the plant. The moving average of the total amount of plutonium-239 measured in one year must not exceed 5 grams.

Residual plutonium from former processing of recycled uranium still circulating in and between Comurhex conversion plants

The Comurhex Malvési plant processed recycled uranium obtained from the La Hague reprocessing plant until 1983. This introduced a number of impurities into the plant, including fission products and plutonium. So far, it was known that these impurities have ended up in the decantation basins B1 and B2 - that is why these were recently declared INBs (Installation Nucléaire de Base) (see below).
Now it became known that the plutonium still circulates - not only within the plant, but even between the Malvési and Pierrelatte plants: when unloading the UF4 containers in Pierrelatte by sublimation, the impurities remain (as so called "heels") in the "empty" cylinders that are then returned to Malvési for refilling.
A draft order of the Prefect of Aude for the expansion of the Malvési plant now addresses the situation by defining a maximum acceptable activity concentration of 1 Bq/g for plutonium-239 in the uranium feed for the plant.
(Ecologie du Carcassonnais, des Corbières et du Littoral Audois (ECCLA) June 25, 2012)

Public inquiry into plan for prevention of technological risks at Comurhex Malvési conversion plant

The inquiry runs from June 18 to July 20, 2012.
> Download: related documents (DREAL Languedoc-Roussillon - in French)

Respirable uranium particles found on cypress leaves close to Comurhex Malvési uranium conversion plant

Uranium oxide and other airborne particles deposited on cypress leaves close to a nuclear facility , by Gieré R, Kaltenmeier R, Pourcelot L, in: Journal of Environmental Monitoring Vol. 14, No. 4, April 1, 2012, p. 1263-1273

Areva announces suspension of capacity increase at Malvési and Pierrelatte uranium conversion plants

On Dec. 13, 2011, Areva announced the suspension of the capacity increase at the Malvési and Pierrelatte uranium conversion plants. (Le Monde Dec. 13, 2011)

Temporary shut down of Areva's Malvési and Pierrelatte uranium conversion plants for drop in demand after Fukushima disaster

French nuclear group Areva on Thursday (Sep. 15) said it would temporarily shut down two uranium conversion plants in France during November and December. The temporary shutdown of the two plants, which employ around 570 staff, comes after a sharp fall in orders from Japanese nuclear power producers in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, said a spokeswoman at Areva. The spokeswoman said the temporary shutdown would reduce estimated production to 10,880 tonnes in 2011, down from an initial goal of 13,400 tonnes for the full year. The plants, which are owned by Areva's subsidiary Comurhex and are located in the southern French cities of Tricastin and Narbonne, chemically prepare uranium before its is enriched to become fuel for nuclear power plants. (Reuters Sep. 15, 2011)

Nuclear Safety Authority finds that decantation basin which failed in 2004 at the Malvési conversion plant is not properly authorized, as it contains traces of artificial radionuclides; control over two basins withdrawn from Comurhex/Areva

On Dec. 22, 2009, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) has determined that the decantation and storage basins B1 and B2 at the Malvési conversion plant do constitute operations to be licensed as "installation nucléaire de base" (INB) rather than "installation classée pour la protection de l'environnement" (ICPE). Basin B2 had failed on March 20, 2004, releasing approx. 30,000 cubic metres of liquid and slurries.
Comurhex was ordered to submit an application for an INB license by Dec. 31, 2010. In the meantime, control over the two basins has been withdrawn from Comurhex/Areva and is exercised by ASN directly. (ASN Jan. 4, 2010)
ASN's determination is based on the fact that these two basins contain traces of artificial radionuclides that result from the practice of processing irradiated fuel in the facility until 1983. (ASN presentation at CLIC Comurhex meeting of Jan. 29, 2010)

Release of fluorine to the canal du Tauran

On Aug. 24, 2009, Areva detected a release of fluorine to the canal du Tauran, exceeding the authorized limit. (Areva Aug. 25, 2009)
The permissible releases of 5 kg/day of fluorine and 230 kg/day of ammonium were heavily exceeded: On Aug. 25 and 26, 2009, an excessive mortality rate of fish was observed in the canal de Tauran. (Compte rendu CLIC Malvési, Sep. 14, 2009)

On Dec. 16, 2011, Comurhex was condemned to 60,000 Euro in fines for water pollution at the Malvési plant between Aug. 21 and 25, 2009. (L'Express Dec. 21, 2011)

Elevated uranium concentrations found in groundwater on site of Malvési conversion plant

During the course of the year 2008, uranium concentrations showed strong increases with peaks up to 1.2 milligrams per litre in two groundwater monitoring wells located on the site of the Malvési conversion plant. Areva has to submit explanations on the cause of the increases and on possible impacts on off-site groundwater by end June 2009.
(DRIRE Languedoc Roussillon: Installations Classées, Contrôle du site COMURHEX, Bilan 2008; DRIRE Languedoc-Roussillon: Compte Rendu, Réunion du CLIC Narbonne, Séance du 21 avril 2009)

Elevated contaminant concentrations found in surface waters near Malvési conversion plant after thunderstorm

After a thunderstorm on January 24, 2009, elevated concentrations of nitrate and uranium were found in surface waters near the Malvési conversion plant. There occured no overflow from the storage basins located on site. (Areva Comurhex: Bilan annuel de fonctionnement, CLIC du 21 avril 2009)

Uranium concentration in surface waters near Malvési conversion plant exceeds WHO drinking water guidance

In a report released Sep. 24, 2008, Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN) discloses some environmental impacts of the Malvési conversion plant, in particular to surface waters outside the site, with uranium concentrations in excess of WHO's drinking water guidance value of 15 micrograms per litre. The artificial onsite pond contains average uranium concentrations of 110 micrograms per litre, with maximum values of 200 micrograms per litre at some locations.

> Download Etat de la surveillance environnementale et bilan du marquage des nappes phréatiques et des cours d’eau autour des sites nucléaires et des entreposages anciens de déchets radioactifs, 15 septembre 2008 (3.1MB PDF - in French)

Railcar with Yellow Cake shipment for Malvési conversion plant overloaded

A railcar carrying uranium ore concentrate from the Hamburg harbour (Germany) to the Comurhex conversion plant at Malvési was found to be overloaded when entering France at Apach. The railcar carried 68 t rather than the permitted 61 t. (Saarbrücker Zeitung Aug. 13, 2008)

Leaking Yellow Cake container arrives at Comurhex Malvési uranium conversion plant

On July 26, 2007, a small spill of Yellow Cake was detected during the unloading of a container from a railcar at Comurhex's Malvési conversion plant. The container held 36 barrels of natural uranium concentrate (Yellow Cake) produced in Niger. It turned out that one of the uranium barrels was damaged and around 30 kg of Yellow Cake had spilled inside the container. Traces of spilled uranium were also found on the ship that had carried the container before the rail transport. The event was rated Level 1 of the INES scale. (ASN Aug. 9, 2007)

Areva increases capacity at Comurhex Malvési conversion plant

On May 21, 2007, Areva announced that it is to spend EUR 240 million to build new facilities and expand existing facilities at its Comurhex Malvési conversion plant. First industrial production is scheduled for 2012, based on 15,000 metric tons of uranium per year. This figure may be increased to 21,000 tons to meet market requirements.

CRIIRAD finds unexpected radionuclide concentrations in slurries at Comurhex Malvési plant

On Nov. 14, 2006, the independent radiation laboratory CRIIRAD released a report giving the results of a radiation survey conducted at the Malvési conversion plant on Sep. 21 and 22, 2006. The slurries contained unexpected high concentrations of thorium-230, which might lead to inacceptable radiation doses from inhalation. Moreover, the artificial nuclide americium-241 was identified, probably caused from former processing of recycled uranium.

> Download related CRIIRAD documents

IRSN demands cleanup of soil contaminated from spills at Comurhex Malvési plant

On July 25, 2006, the Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN) performed a radiation survey of areas outside the Comurhex Malvési plant. It turned out that several areas were contaminated from uranium decay products (Th-234 and Pa-234m in particular) released during spills. IRSN demands the cleanup of those areas. (Compte rendu d'intervention, IRSN, Oct. 2006)

New spill of slurries at Malvési conversion plant went undetected for one month

On June 20, 2006, a spill of an unreported amount of contaminated slurries occured from leaking pipework connecting decantation basin B5 with the treatment plant for the supernatant liquids. The spill covered a surface area of 350 square meters and was only detected on July 19, 2006. (Compte rendu, Comité Local d'Information et de Concertation, Séance du 24 Juillet 2006 à Narbonne)

Production halted at Malvési conversion plant after new spill and for decantation pond dam failure hazard after heavy rain

On January 30, 2006, Comurhex had to halt parts of its production at Malvési due to heavy rainfall in the area. According to a Comurhex press release, the production halt was a preventive measure necessary to maintain a safety margin in the plant's effluent decantation ponds. (Comurhex Jan. 30, 2006)
However, during heavy rain on Jan. 28 - 30, 2006, precipitation came into contact with the slurries still lying outside of the B2 dam broken in 2004 (according to Comurhex, bad weather had prevented the reconstruction of the dam). An unspecified amount of the contaminated liquid (carrying high loads of nitrate) then spilled into the canal of Tauran. (Compte-rendu du CLIC Malvési, Comurhex-Narbonne, 16 février 2006)
On March 5, 2006, strong winds resulted in an overflow of several decantation ponds due to insufficient safety margins of the ponding water levels, leading to another spill of an unspecified amount of nitrate-contaminated waters to the canal of Tauran. During the period from end-January to mid-April, the amount of nitrate released by Comurhex (297 t NO3) was six times higher than in a complete year without incidents (46 t NO3). The release of uranium during that period (75 kg U) was only slightly higher than in a complete normal year (63 kg U). (Compte-rendu du CLIC Malvési, Comurhex-Narbonne, 22 mai 2006; AREVA: CLIC du 22/05/06: Bilan des intempéries, Actions d’amélioration)
Production was resumed on April 1, 2006.

Dam failure of decantation pond at Malvési conversion plant

On March 20, 2004, a dam failure at decantation and evaporation pond B2 of the Malvési conversion plant released approx. 30,000 cubic metres of liquid and slurries. The liquid contained high concentrations of nitrate and led to elevated nitrate concentrations of up to 170 mg/L in the canal of Tauran for several weeks, while uranium concentrations remained unchanged. The dam failure is believed to be caused by an "abnormal presence of water" due to heavy rain in summer 2003. (Rapport environnemental, social et sociétal 2004, COMURHEX Malvési)
> View details

Derailment of railway car carrying uranium ore concentrates

On September 23, 2001, a railway car carrying 30 tonnes of uranium ore concentrates derailed at the Courbessac shunting yard near Nîmes (Gard) in Southern France. The uranium obviously originated from Niger. It was shipped via Benin and Britanny to the Comurhex conversion plant at Malvési near Narbonne (Aude). No uranium was spilled. (Midi Libre Sep 25, 2001)

Fire on railway car carrying uranium ore concentrates

On June 8, 2000, a beginning fire was detected on a railway car carrying uranium ore concentrate (magnesium uranate) from Niger to Malvési. The fire was noticed at the entry of the Chantenay station (near Nantes) and the train was stopped. Fire brigades extinguished the fire within minutes. (ASN)
 

AREVA NC uranium conversion plant, Pierrelatte (Drôme, France)

(formerly Comurhex)

Aerial view: Google Maps

INB No. 105

> See also: decommissioning issues (INB 105)

Information about Comurhex plant (Nuclear Safety Authority - ASN, in French)
> See also: Plan de Prévention des Risques Technologiques (PPRT) AREVA NC, usine W, et COMURHEX
> See also: Refluorination of depleted uranium oxide at Comurhex Malvési and Pierrelatte plants, France
 

Storage yard for 62,000 tonnes of uranium licensed at Areva Tricastin site

> View here

Violation of criticality rules at Areva's Pierrelatte conversion plant

On Feb. 17, 2017, Areva announced that two waste containers located in a storage area of the conversion plant were found to contain uranium enriched higher than the permitted 2.5%.
According to a Feb. 24, 2017, release of the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN, six containers holding up to 55% of uranium were found in an area, where only traces of uranium were allowed, and 2 containers holding less than 1% of uranium, but enriched to 20-25% U-235. ASN rated this incident Level 1 on the INES scale.

Deformed cylinder valve found at UF6 cylinder at Areva's Pierrelatte conversion plant site

During a check in a storage yard of cylinders holding natural uranium hexafluoride, an operator found that the fill valve of a cylinder showed a slight deformation, but no leak was found. Areva determined that the valve was damaged during the cooling phase of the cylinder during which the UF6 crystallizes from gazeous to solid form. If the valve had actually failed during the cooling phase, when gazeous UF6 is still present, the impacts could have been severe. ASN rated the event level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Oct. 14, 2016; Areva Oct. 6, 2016)

Heat exchanger leak leads to temporary exceeding of contaminant concentration limits in effluents of Areva's Pierrelatte uranium conversion plant

A leak in a heat exchanger used to cool a potassium solution required for the washing of process gases lead to the temporary exceeding of the limits for uranium concentration and pH in plant effluents. ASN rated the event Level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Oct. 10, 2016)

Hydrogen fluoride release at Areva's Pierrelatte conversion plant

On Feb. 23, 2016, a release of hydrogen fluoride (HF) occured inside the HF storge building at the flange of a recently changed valve. (ASN Mar. 18, 2016)

Violation of criticality rules at Areva's Pierrelatte conversion plant

On Oct. 16, 2015, Areva declared a significant event at its Pierrelatte conversion plant, when the uranium-235 contents in two containers holding recycled uranium was found to slightly exceed the authorized limit. ASN rated the event Level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Oct. 26, 2015)

Nuclear Safety Authority issues licence for continued operation of Areva's existing Comurhex Pierrelatte conversion plant, as replacement by Comurhex 2 project is delayed

In its CODEP-LYO-2015-024792 decision of 30 June 2015, Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN) oversees the requirements by the continued operation of certain installations classified for the protection of the environment of the COMURHEX uranium plant conversion, located in the perimeter of the INB No. 105 on Areva's nuclear site of Tricastin.
The permanent cessation of activity of these installations had been prescribed by the prefectural decree of July 23, 2010 within five years at most, or the end of July, 2015. The project to replace these facilities with new facilities COMURHEX 2 having been delayed, AREVA asked in 2014 ASN for a postponement of the closure of the old plant facilities COMURHEX 1 until the end of 2017.
Considering that the plant COMURHEX 1 facilities had not been subject to complementary safety assessments resulting from the accident of Fukushima experience feedback, ASN conditioned their continued operation beyond 2015 on an improvement of the control of nuisance and risks and the implementation work of strengthening the robustness of the facilities. The analysis of the ASN and its technical support, the IRSN, has verified that the improvements proposed by AREVA are likely to reduce the risks and disadvantages of plant COMURHEX 1 facilities.
ASN has therefore set requirements in order to take note of AREVA's commitments and impose additional reinforcements deemed necessary after its technical instruction. ASN officially set the new date of cessation of plant facilities COMURHEX 1 to the end of 2017. (Areva July 15, 2015)
> Download: Décision CODEP-LYO-2015-024792 du président de l'ASN du 30 juin 2015 , July 13, 2015 (ASN - in French)

Parliamentary commission doubts oversized capacity increase at Areva's Comurhex Pierrelatte conversion plant

On July 8, 2015, the financial commission of the French parliament released a report on Areva. The report in particular doubts the planned capacity increase of the Comurhex conversion plant from 15,000 to 21,000 t/a, while the current capacity of 8,000 to 9,000 t/a already by far exceeds the needs of domestic client EdF (3,000 to 4,000 t/a). (Le Devoir July 7, 2015)
> Download financial commission report No. 2952 , July 15, 2015 (Assemblée Nationale - in French)

Areva fails to perform inspections of lifting lugs of 48Y transport cylinders for uranium hexafluoride

Since June, the international agreement on the transport of uranium hexafluoride in Type 48Y cylinders has been modified to include visual inspections of the cylinders' lifting hugs. Areva announces that nine transports of empty cylinders have been conducted since end June without performing the newly prescribed inspections.
Areva proposes to rate the event level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). (Areva Aug. 25, 2014)

Faulty welds detected at lifting lugs of a batch of 48Y transport cylinders for uranium hexafluoride

On 18 December 2013, AREVA NC reported to the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) the discovery of a detached lifting lug on a 48Y cylinder in a storage yard at Pierrelatte.
Following this discovery, AREVA NC has suspended shipments on public roads as well as handling operations using lifting lugs for 48Y cylinders of the same manufacturing batch. AREVA NC has also checked the weld quality of a sample of 48Y cylinders: first results of these tests suggest that a significant portion of that 48Y cylinder batch have defects in the welds of the lifting lugs. A 48Y cylinder from another batch but the same manufacturer (Terrenoire) also has such defects. To date, however, the checks have not identified similar defects for 48Y cylinders produced by other manufacturers.
Given these initial results and pending further details, ASN asked the nuclear operators holding 48Y cylinders to restrict the use of 48Y cylinders manufactured by Terrenoire and for which the quality of the welds at the lifting lugs was not verified. These restrictions include a ban on the shipping of such cylinders on public roads and on handling operations using the lifting lugs. (ASN Feb. 25, 2014)

Public comment invited on risk prevention plan for Areva's Comurhex Pierrelatte conversion plant and Usine W depleted uranium deconversion plant

Submit comments by April 11, 2014.
> View announcement and download related documents (in French)

Uranium hexafluoride cylinder overfilled at Comurhex Pierrelatte conversion plant

On July 26, 2012, Areva announced that in April an uranium hexafluoride cylinder had been overfilled at the Comurhex Pierrelatte conversion plant. After a transport within the plant, the cylinder was found to exceed the weight standard set up by the company for that purpose, but was still below the standard set by the authorities. The event was rated level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES).

Residual plutonium from former processing of recycled uranium still circulating in and between Comurhex conversion plants

> See here

Uranium hexafluoride cylinders mixed up at Comurhex Pierrelatte conversion plant

On April 29, 2012, a mixup of identification numbers led to the use of the wrong UF6 cylinder for a recurring test at the Comurhex conversion plant in Pierrelatte. The bar code reader meant to prevent such mixup was out of service at the time, and the double checking of the identification numbers prescribed in this case had not taken place. The event had no immediate impacts. The event was rated level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). (ASN May 15, 2012)

Areva announces suspension of capacity increase at Malvési and Pierrelatte uranium conversion plants

> View here

Dose rate at boundary of Areva's Pierrelatte conversion plant exceeds 1 mSv standard

The dose rate at the boundary of Areva's Pierrelatte conversion plant exceeds the 1 mSv per year standard at two locations. This became apparent as Areva is now using more sensitive films in the dosimeters placed at the site perimeter. As there is nobody living at the site perimeter, no residents were exposed to excess radiation doses. (ASN Oct. 20, 2011)

Temporary shut down of Areva's Malvési and Pierrelatte uranium conversion plants for drop in demand after Fukushima disaster

> View here

Study finds elevated uranium levels in groundwater near Tricastin nuclear site partly caused by former site activities

A study conducted by IRSN after the 2008 incident at Socatri concluded that the uranium levels in excess of WHO's 15 g/L drinking water guidance found in the alluvial groundwater of the community of Bollène are probably linked to the former activity of the nuclear site, while the levels found at the community of Lapalud are of natural origin.

> View IRSN release Sep. 17, 2010 (in French)
> Download report Etude sur l'origine du marquage par l'uranium dans la nappe alluviale de la plaine du Tricastin , DEI/2010-004, Direction de l'Environnement et de l'Intervention, IRSN 2010 (34.5MB PDF - in French)

Release of fluorine and nitrogen at Comurhex Pierrelatte conversion plant

On May 10, 2010, a gaseous release of fluorine and nitrogen occured at a non-nuclear section of the Comurhex Pierrelatte facility. The release caused no injuries nor impacts on the exterior of the site. (Areva May 20, 2010)

Nuclear Safety Authority condemns poor management of Areva/Comurhex Pierrelatte uranium conversion plant

"[...] In view of this examination, the inspectors consider that the rigour of exploitation and the conformity of the INB No. 105 appears very insufficient in comparison with the regulation. In spite of a low risk presented by the installations, the management of those is regarded as unsatisfactory. The reference frame of safety of the INB No. 105 does not correspond at the real state of the installations. In addition, the management of the modifications and consignments is not based on a formalized reference frame. Periodicities of certain controls periodicals are not respected and others are not carried out. Lastly, certain wastes stored in area No. 61 do not present a satisfying containment and the conditions of storage do not respect the commitments made by the owner to limit the consequences of possible flooding. Three notable reports were raised at the end of this inspection. [...]" (ASN Nov. 27, 2009, emphasis added)
> Download ASN Lettre de suite d'inspection, Usine de préparation d'hexaflorure d'uranium - COMURHEX, Inspection du : 18/11/2009, Nov. 27, 2009 (PDF - in French)

Uranium concentration in groundwater near Pierrelatte conversion plant exceeds WHO drinking water guidance

In a report released Sep. 24, 2008, Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN) discloses that groundwater south of the Pierrelatte conversion plant contains uranium concentrations in excess of WHO's drinking water guidance value of 15 micrograms per litre. Due to the proximity of various other nuclear facilities at the Tricastin site, the origin of these values remains to be determined.

> Download Etat de la surveillance environnementale et bilan du marquage des nappes phréatiques et des cours d’eau autour des sites nucléaires et des entreposages anciens de déchets radioactifs, 15 septembre 2008 (3.1MB PDF - in French)

Uranium leak in sewage system of Comurhex Pierrelatte conversion plant

On Aug. 22, 2008, Areva reported a minor leak in the sewage system of the Comurhex Pierrelatte conversion plant. The amount of uranium escaped is believed to be on the order of 250 grams.

Areva presents study on health risks for residents from operation of nuclear facilities at the Tricastin site

> View here

Areva increases capacity at Comurhex Pierrelatte conversion plant

On May 21, 2007, Areva announced that it is to spend EUR 370 million to build new facilities at its Comurhex Pierrelatte conversion plant. First industrial production is scheduled for 2012, based on 15,000 metric tons of uranium per year. This figure may be increased to 21,000 tons to meet market requirements.

Uranium spill at Comurhex Pierrelatte conversion plant

On December 3, 2003, about 150 grams of uranium were inadvertently released into the rainwater collection system of the Comurhex Pierrelatte plant.

> View ASN release, Jan. 28, 2004 (in French)

ASN cites Comurhex on deficiencies at Pierrelatte conversion plant

On Oct. 29, 2003, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) issued a citation to Comurhex on deficiencies regarding fire prevention at its Pierrelatte uranium conversion plant.
> View ASN release Oct. 29, 2003 (in French)
> Download ASN citation Oct. 29, 2003 (PDF - in French)

Pierrelatte uranium conversion plant flooded

During the night from 19 to 20 October, 2001, a water leakage flooded the Comurhex uranium conversion plant at Pierrelatte. The plant was not in operation at that time. The water became contaminated with traces of residual uranium from the floor and the walls of the facility. A part (approximately 200 cubic meters) of the contaminated water flowed into the surroundings of the building. The maximum uranium concentration found in the water was 2 milligrams per litre. The event was rated Level 1 of the INES scale. (ASN 31 Oct 2001)

Dumping of uranium conversion waste near Pierrelatte stopped

A total of 100,000 casks containing low-level radioactive waste from the Comurhex uranium conversion plant at Pierrelatte in Southern France have been dumped in a domestic waste deposit in the nearby community of Solérieux (Drôme dept.). In the Pierrelatte plant, Comurhex, a COGEMA subsidiary, is converting UF4 to UF6 for later enrichment in the Eurodif plant. The wastes consist of calcium fluorine, contaminated with uranium. The amount of wastes dumped was 1000 tonnes per year.
After the situation had been made public by MP Michèle Rivasi, Comurhex decided to stop dumping at Solérieux and to keep the wastes on site at Pierrelatte for intermediate storage, until a proposed national low-level waste facility will be operable in 2002.
Sources: Le Monde 22 Jul 1999, Nuclear Fuel 26 July 1999, dpa 3 Aug 1999
> View map (ANDRA)
 

Incidents at Comurhex Pierrelatte conversion plant

Comurhex Pierrelatte events (ASN - in French)
 

Cogéma Pierrelatte TU5 conversion facility for uranyl nitrate (Drôme, France)

INB No. 155
Information about TU5 plant (Nuclear Safety Authority - ASN, in French)
 

Study among French nuclear workers finds increased mortality risk from exposure to reprocessed uranium

> View here

Spill of uranyl nitrate at Areva's Tricastin site

On Dec. 9, 2014, Areva announced that a spill of uranyl nitrate was detected in its denitrification plant at the Tricastin site. The plant converts uranyl nitrate, as obtained from reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, to uranium oxide. The operations at the plant were halted immediately. The company proposed to rate the event Level 1 on the INES scale.
On Dec. 15, 2014, Areva further announced that the spill implied the release of 3.5 m3 of uranyl nitrate to the retention system designed for this purpose. A small fraction of the release spilled onto the floor of the nearby workshop and another workshop located on a lower level. The spill was caused from the failure of a flange in a circuit containing uranyl nitrate.

Insuffient pressure used in tests of 160 UF6 cylinders at Areva's Tricastin site

On Oct. 23, 2014, Areva NC announced to ASN that the mandatory tests for the tightness of 30B and 48Y cylinders had been performed in a way that did not conform to regulations. For 160 cylinders tested in 2014, a pressure between 6.4 and 6.8 bars had been used instead of the prescribed 6.9 bars. The event was classified level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Nov. 6, 2014)

50,000 tonnes of depleted uranium oxide in use at Tricastin to shield radiation from 7,360 tonnes of stored reprocessed uranium oxide

In wake of the Fukushima disaster, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) requested operators of nuclear facilities to prepare supplemental safety reports to assess various natural hazards. In its report on the Tricastin site, Areva made an amazing disclosure: the product storage area P18 of the TU5 uranyl nitrate conversion facility holds 7,360 tonnes of reprocessed U3O8 in 213-Liter barrels, while approximately 50,000 tonnes of depleted U3O8 are used as a biological shield at the periphery of the storage area.
For comparison: the Bessines depleted uranium oxide storage facility has a capacity of 199,900 t.
So, one may wonder whether the closure of the nuclear fuel cycle actually is a viable option, if the safe storage of the recycled product requires such an absurdly massive shielding. After all, the uranium has to be processed further to be recycled into nuclear fuel...
Or, is this just an undeclared on-site storage facility for depleted uranium oxide of the adjacent Usine W depleted uranium deconversion plant? After all, the Bessines depleted uranium oxide storage facility is almost full and would not have sufficient space left to store this amount.
> Access Evaluation complémentaire de la sûreté des installations nucléaires de base, Site du Tricastin, Areva, Septembre 2011 , p. 86 (ASN - in French)

Faulty locking devices at overpack of UF6 cylinders

On March 25, 2011, ASN was notified by Areva that locking devices of overpacks of cylinders carrying natural and/or enriched uranium hexafluoride had inadvertently opened during transport in three cases in 2010 and 2011. Although the American designer of the locks had modified them in view of these incidents, Areva failed to implement these modifications. The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale.
> View ASN Avis d'indident May 12, 2011 [in French]

Areva presents study on health risks for residents from operation of nuclear facilities at the Tricastin site

> View here

Criticality rules violated at TU5 conversion facility

On June 30, 2006, Areva notified the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN that concentrations of uranium-235 in excess of the licensed 1% had been found in several drums. On July 18, 2006, ASN ordered Areva to take urgent measures to assure the licensed level in all drums. (ASN July 18, 2006)

Explosion in TU5 conversion facility

On March 16, 2002, a 200-litre tank of low-level liquid radioactive waste exploded at Cogéma's Pierrelatte TU5 conversion facility. An investigation done by the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN revealed two handling errors which had led to the mixing of chemically incompatible liquids in the tank. The explosion caused no injuries and no releases to the environment. The event was classified level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN April 10, 2002)
The plant processes recycled uranium from the La Hague reprocessing plant from the chemical form of UO2(NO3)2 (uranyl nitrate) into U3O8.
 

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