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Current Issues: Operating Uranium Conversion/Enrichment and Nuclear Fuel Plants - France

(last updated 13 Dec 2020)

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

General


Advertising ethics jury finds Orano advertising on recycling of nuclear fuel is misleading and ambiguous

Nuclear advertisements broadcast by Orano were singled out by the advertising ethics jury (Jury de Déontologie Publicitaire), which particularly noted their misleading and ambiguous nature, after complaints lodged by the "Sortir du nucléaire" Network (RSN) and Greenpeace France, announced the two associations this Monday (May 4).
In two separate opinions issued on Monday, the advertising ethics jury found that these advertisements violated several recommendations of the Professional Advertising Regulation Authority (Autorité de régulation professionnelle de la publicité - ARPP).
(Le Figaro May 4, 2020)
> View: Advertising ethics jury release , May 4, 2020 (in French)

Individual radiation doses received by French nuclear fuel fabrication workers now exceed those received by nuclear reactor workers more than threefold

According to the 2017 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 2017, the average individual dose of exposed workers in fuel fabrication was 2.55 mSv (unchanged from 2016), more than three times the 0.83 mSv (2016: 0.98 mSv) received by exposed workers in reactor operation. The group receiving the second highest individual doses are the logistics and maintenance workers with 1.68 mSv (2016: 1.54 mSv).
> View IRSN release Sep. 26, 2018 (in French)
> Download: La radioprotection des travailleurs - Exposition professionnelle aux rayonnements ionisants en France: bilan 2017 , IRSN, Sep. 2018 (4.8MB PDF - in French)

Note: The figures for 2018 were 2.59 mSv for exposed workers in nuclear fuel production and 0.90 mSv for exposed workers in reactor operation.
> Download: La radioprotection des travailleurs - Exposition professionnelle aux rayonnements ionisants en France: bilan 2018 , IRSN, Sep. 2019 (5.7MB PDF - in French)

Note: The figures for 2019 were 2.62 mSv for exposed workers in nuclear fuel production and 0.91 mSv for exposed workers in reactor operation.
> Download: La radioprotection des travailleurs - Exposition professionnelle aux rayonnements ionisants en France: bilan 2019 , IRSN, June 2020 (2.5MB PDF - in French)

 

EDF plans to restart use of reprocessed uranium in some of its reactors

The French utility wants to reduce its stocks of reprocessed uranium which increase by 1,000 t per year. They are six or seven warehouses, aligned on a site of the huge nuclear site of Orano Tricastin (Drôme), in which accumulate some 20,000 t of reprocessed uranium originating from EDF's nuclear power plants. A stock that grows every year by an additional 1,000 t since the shutdown of the recycling channel of this fuel five years ago, but that EDF has decided to relaunch.
"We recycled reprocessed uranium from 1994 to 2013, before stopping following an unsatisfactory effluent treatment process. For two years, we have been working on rebuilding a strong and competitive sector. This allows us to recycle a valuable material and reduce our purchases of uranium," explains Denis Lépée, director of the nuclear fuel division at EDF.
A long-term recovery: it is only from 2023 that the four 900 megawatt (MW) reactors of Cruas (Ardèche), on the banks of the Rhône, should again consume 600 t of enriched reprocessed uranium. And from 2028, one and then three reactors of 1,300 MW should be added to this program. At the end of this ten-year plan (2023-2032), 1,300 t of enriched reprocessed uranium are used per year, which only then makes it possible to start reducing stocks.
Today, EDF recycles some of its spent fuel through MOX, used in about twenty reactors. This fuel makes it possible to reuse the plutonium created by the reprocessing process (1% of the tonnages), but not the uranium resulting from this recycling, which nevertheless represents 95% of the volumes (the remaining 4% being ultimate waste). "The MOX industry allows us to save 10% of our natural uranium needs. By 2030, with this new sector, it is 20 to 25% less uranium that we will need," said Denis Lépée.
While, for its reuse, reprocessed uranium, must undergo a conversion phase and then be enriched again, this new sector will not benefit Orano. Following the call for tenders organized by EDF to carry out these operations, the utility will call on Russian Tenex (Rosatom ) and Urenco (with German, British and Dutch capital), then on its subsidiary Framatome at Romans-sur-Isère for the assembly of the fuel. (Les Echos Sep. 10, 2018)

 

Urenco to enrich reprocessed uranium for EdF

On July 4, 2018, Urenco announced that it has signed a contract with French utility EdF to enrich reprocessed uranium.

N.B. On May 30, 2018, Urenco USA had requested NRC approval for the enrichment of feed with higher than natural assays, see here.

 

Framatome to produce reprocessed uranium fuel for use in French reactors

Framatome has signed a contract to design, fabricate and supply fuel assemblies using enriched reprocessed uranium to French utility EDF between 2023 and 2032. Framatome noted the project is subject to administrative and regulatory authorisations.
The fuel assemblies - to be produced at Framatome's facility at Romans-sur-Isère in the Drôme region of France - will incorporate uranium that has been derived from the reprocessing of used fuel at the La Hague plant. Once enriched, this uranium can be used again to fuel nuclear power reactors. EDF is to use the fuel assemblies in a number of its reactors, which have been authorised to use such fuel.
EDF has made provision to store reprocessed uranium for up to 250 years as a strategic reserve. Currently, reprocessing of 1100 tonnes of EDF used fuel per year produces 11 tonnes of plutonium (immediately recycled as mixed-oxide fuel) and 1045 tonnes of reprocessed uranium converted into stable oxide form for storage. (World Nuclear News May 25, 2018)

 

Russia to enrich reprocessed uranium for EdF

Techsnabexport (TENEX) will receive more than $ 1 billion from French Electricité de France (EdF) in 2023-2032 for processing [presumably conversion and re-enrichment] of uranium recycled from spent nuclear fuel. (Kommersant May 25, 2018)

 

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)

 


Conversion


Orano uranium conversion plant, Malvési (Narbonne, Aude, France)

(formerly Comurhex)
ICPE, INB 175 (ECRIN)

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


General · Uranium Tetrafluoride (UF4) production · Uranium Dioxide (UO2) production project

Malvési: General

Demonstration against Orano's Malvési uranium conversion plant

On Saturday February 29, 2020, a demonstration gathered 400 people in Narbonne against Orano Malvési and its new projects TDN [traitement des nitrates] and NVH [Nouvelle Voie Humide de production de dioxyde d'uranium]. (Sortir du nucléaire Aude, Feb. 29, 2020)

 


Malvési: Uranium Tetrafluoride (UF4) production

(The plant purifies and converts uranium ore concentrate containing U3O8 to uranium tetrafluoride (UF4), which is then further converted to uranium hexafluoride (UF6) at Orano's Pierrelatte plant.)

 

Strike at Orano's Malvési conversion plant ends after eight weeks

At 8 p.m. this Friday (Dec. 12), after an afternoon of negotiations, the management of Orano-Malvési and the CGT [union] finally reached an agreement, ending a strike that had started on October 16. A social movement whose demands focused on the re-internalization of maintenance operations and early retirement depending on the arduous nature of the work.
The suspension of the 80 employment contracts, which had aroused the indignation of the unions, was immediately lifted. Stopped since the start of the conflict, the production workshop, with around thirty CGT strikers, will be able to resume. "However, we are maintaining our annual technical shutdown in December, for a fortnight. We will restart in January," says one on the side of the management of the industrial site classified Seveso 2. (L'Indépendant Dec. 12, 2020)

Workers at Orano's Malvési conversion plant on strike for more than five weeks

For more than five weeks now, the social conflict between the CGT and the management of the Orano-Malvézy factory continues. The movement was launched on October 16 by the union, in particular because of the "more and more massive" recourse to subcontracting to ensure the maintenance of the site. (L'Indépendant Nov. 26, 2020)

ASN calls for studies on management of uranium conversion wastes generated at Orano's Malvési plant

On Aug. 10, 2020, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN issued its opinion on the management of long-lived low level radioactive waste.
Concerning the uranium conversion wastes (RTCU) generated at Malvési, ASN considers that these wastes must be better integrated into the work on the scenarios for the management of long-lived low level radioactive waste. It recommends that studies for a RTCU storage facility be continued, involving representatives of the territories involved or likely to be. The objective is to provide, by a date set by the next edition of the PNGMDR, the technical and safety options for this installation, at a level of maturity corresponding to a preliminary draft.
> View: ASN release Aug. 10, 2020 (in French)
> Download: Avis nº 2020-AV-0357 de l'Autorité de sûreté nucléaire du 6 août 2020 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 2016-2018, en vue de l'élaboration du cinquième plan national de gestion des matières et des déchets radioactifs , Aug. 6, 2020 (173kB PDF - in French)

Leaking drums of uranium ore concentrate received at Orano's Malvési uranium conversion plant in seven instances in 2019

During the year 2019, leaking drums of uranium ore concentrate were detected in sea containers arriving at the Malvési uranium conversion plant in seven instances. The transports in question originated from Niger (2x), Namibia (2x), Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Australia. Each of these events was rated Level 0 on the INES scale.
> Download: Orano: Rapport d'information du site Orano Malvési, Edition 2019 (3.4MB PDF - in French)

Dam stability of waste impoundment insufficient at Orano's Malvési uranium conversion plant

On May 25, 2019, the stability factor of the western embankment of INB No. 175 (Écrin - confined disposal of wastes from conversion) was found to be locally lower than prescribed. The situation was corrected by installation of draining strips over the entire area, and by placement of riprap. The event was rated Level 0 on the INES scale.
> Download: Orano: Rapport d'information du site Orano Malvési, Edition 2019 (3.4MB PDF - in French)

ASN issues license for continued waste disposal at Orano's Malvési uranium conversion plant

On Oct. 12, 2018, ASN issued a decision authorising Orano to start operation of INB No. 175 (Écrin - confined disposal of wastes from conversion), located on top of the old waste impoundments B1 and B2 (!).

Detonation and fire at Orano's Malvési uranium conversion plant

According to Orano, on Sep. 19, 2018, at 11h20, a smoke release was detected inside a building for the checking and control of materials of the Malvési site. A storage barrel containing metal oxides from old productions is the origin of this event that occurred inside a containment lock. 2 operators working nearby were slightly injured and were taken in charge by the medical service of the site. (Orano Sep. 19, 2018)
However, local media reveiled the same day that the fire was preceded by a detonation - not mentioned by Orano - that occured when opening the barrel. (L'Indépendant, France 3).
On June 20, 2019, the prefect of Aude lifted an order temporarily prohibiting the opening of barrels containing recyclable uranium-containing materials at the site.

Dose rate from external radiation at site boundary of Orano's Malvési uranium conversion plant reaches new peak; 1 mSv standard only met by tricks

The dose rate from external radiation at the site boundary of Orano's Malvési uranium conversion plant reached a new peak of 0.77 mSv per year in 2017, a 75% increase over the 0.44 mSv reported for 2016. Previously, the highest value had been reported at 0.72 mSv for 2013.
These dose rates are based on the 2000-hour occupancy of a farmer working near the boundary, rather than on continuous occupancy. For continous occupancy, the dose rates would exceed the 1 mSv per year standard for all of the years reported: the 2017 value, for example, would be 3.37 mSv rather than the 0.77 mSv reported.
> Download: Orano: Rapport d'information du site Orano Malvési, Edition 2017 (2.3MB PDF - in French)

Note: In 2011, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN cited Areva for exceeding the 1 mSv per year standard at its Pierrelatte conversion plant, where the standard is based on continuous occupancy.
> See: Dose rate at boundary of Areva's Pierrelatte conversion plant exceeds 1 mSv standard

During the following years, the dose rate from external radiation at the site boundary increased even further: to 0.80 mSv in 2018, and 0.84 mSv in 2019. For continuous occupancy, therefore, the dose rates would exceed the 1 mSv per year standard even further (3.5 mSv, and 3.7 mSv, respectively).
> Download: Orano: Rapport d'information du site Orano Malvési, Edition 2019 (3.4MB PDF - in French)

Orano's Malvési conversion plant to profit from suspension of operation at ConverDyn's Metropolis plant (Illinois)

In terms of activities, the Orano Malvési site will notably benefit from a contract signed between its parent company and its American competitor ConverDyn. Subsidiary of the Honeywell Group, this company decided last year to suspend the activity of its [Metropolis] conversion site - a situation that benefits the Narbonne plant.
In the short term, 40% of the uranium converted for use in US nuclear power plants will come from Malvési. (La Tribune June 12, 2018)

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)

 

Nitrate treatment plant (TDN) project at Malvési conversion plant

Orano plans further changes at Malvési conversion plant, eliminating need for slurry retention ponds: After a recently completed investment cycle of EUR 500 million over ten years, the Orano group is embarking on a new cycle of EUR 300 million for five years to come.
The new investment cycle will include the addition of a nitrate waste treatment unit (TDN) to meet more environmental requirements. Operational in 2020, it will produce gaseous residues free of nitrate, and solid, which will be sent to a site of the National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (Andra), which refuses today to accommodate nitrate waste. This new process will notably eliminate the retention ponds surrounding the Malvési site, thus reducing the risk of leaks.
(La Tribune June 12, 2018)

Prefect to authorize controversial waste treatment plant project at Areva's Malvési conversion plant: The Prefect of Aude announced on Nov. 8 that he is going to authorize Areva's proposed treatment of nitrates contained in the liquid wastes stored at the site of Malvési near Narbonne. (Le Figaro Nov. 8, 2017)

Demonstration against controversial waste treatment plant project at Areva's Malvési conversion plant: On Nov. 5, 2017, between 2,000 and 3,000 people held a demonstration in Narbonne against a waste treatment plant proposed by Areva for its Malvési conversion plant. The nitrate treatment plant "TDN Thor" should be able to absorb some of the tailings ponds and transform part of the liquid waste into ultimate waste that can be stored elsewhere.
Particularly denounced by activists, the plant's NOx emissions will total 38 tonnes per year. However, this figure is relative, according to Maryse Arditi, president of the environmental association Eccla : "Until 2014, the plant emitted more than 150 t of NOx per year. Thanks to process improvements, these emissions fell to 82 tons in 2015. Even adding the TDN Thor, NOx releases would not reach those before 2014," she says. (Le Monde Nov. 6, 2017)

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)
 

Malvési: Uranium Dioxide (UO2) production project

Orano's Malvési conversion plant obtains authorization to produce uranium dioxide (UO2): In a decree issued on July 26, 2018, the prefect of Aude authorized Orano to operate a reduction plant to produce uranium dioxide (UO2) containing 300 t U per year at its Malvési conversion plant [this translates into 340.3 t UO2 per year].
> Download: Arrêté préfectoral nº DREAL-UD11-2018-037 , July 26, 2018 (806kB PDF - in French)

[There is no mention in this document of the isotopic composition of the uranium to be processed, such as depleted/natural/enriched. Most likely, the plant will process depleted uranium for use in MOX fuel element production at Marcoule.]

No Environmental Impact Statement needed for proposed uranium dioxide (UO2) production at site of Orano's Malvési conversion plant On June 28, 2018, the prefect of the Occitana region decided that no Environmental Impact Statement is required for Orano's proposal to construct a plant for the production of 300 t uranium dioxide (UO2) per year at its Malvési site near Narbonne.
The purpose of the proposal is to "relocate on French territory the production of uranium dioxide (UO2) used in the manufacture of nuclear fuels, in order to have a sustainable and controlled supply after the shutdown of production (in 2021) at the Lingen site in Germany."
> Download: Décision DREAL Occitanie , June 28, 2018 (114kB PDF - in French)


Orano uranium conversion plant, Pierrelatte (Drôme, France)

(Philippe Coste, formerly Comurhex)

Aerial view: Google Maps

ICPE, INB No. 105 (recycled uranium)

(The plant converts uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) supplied from Orano's Malvési plant to uranium hexafluoride (UF6).)

> 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
 

Two workers contaminated with uranium hexafluoride in accident at Orano's Pierrelatte uranium conversion plant

On October 22, during a maintenance operation on the Tricastin site, two employees of the Endel/Engie company, Orano's subcontractor, had an accident. While they were cutting a compressed air distribution circuit, a loss of seal between the compressed air circuit and the transfer of uranium material occurred, with a release of material. One of the two workers scratched his hand with his grinding tool. Both workers have been transferred to hospital.
Orano specifies that the workers had their protective equipment (respiratory protection mask, waterproof protective clothing) and that they resumed their activity outside the controlled area. The accident was declared to the nuclear safety authority with a proposal to classify this event at level 0 on the INES scale (out of 7).
For his part, Gilles Renault, president of the association Ma Zone contrôlée , believes that the seriousness of the accident is underrated. "The workers received UF6 (uranium hexafluoride, editor's note) on them, some of it got through their protective equipment. They were hit in the face and on the body. One of them returned home covered in food paper to sweat. The other had to have his wound cleaned." Analyzes are underway to find out the doses of radioactivity that the workers could have received. Uranium hexafluoride is a radioactive material. It causes skin burns, serious eye damage and proven risk of serious damage to the respiratory tract according to the UN classification. (Le Dauphiné Nov. 7, 2020)

ASN finds conditions at effluent treatment plant of Orano's Pierrelatte uranium conversion plant 'not satisfactory'

On Sep. 29, 2020, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN conducted an unannounced inspection of the St 900 effluent treatment plant at the Pierrelatte uranium conversion plant site. The St 900 plant is to be replaced by Unit 68, which is currently under construction and should be operable in the third quarter of 2021.
This inspection followed in particular the significant event for the environment, declared at the request of ASN on September 21, 2020, and relating to an acid solution leak during an operation to unclog a rotary fabric filter at St 900.
"The conclusions of this inspection are not satisfactory. The inspectors observed dilapidated St 900 equipment, a configuration that has not changed and that involves practices poorly suited to current containment standards and an insufficient general level of cleanliness. In addition, there is a very tense general production situation leading to a reduction in risk control in the management of non-conformities or technical difficulties. Thus, the inspectors noted that the operator had not carried out any risk analysis prior to the operation to unclog the nitric acid filter at the origin of the significant event and had not accompanied its realization by any operational or specific monitoring document. The inspectors also noted that the condition of the facilities did not provide sufficient guarantees in terms of containment and retention of hazardous and radioactive substances used in the facility.
The operator will have to upgrade the St900 to make its process more reliable, as planned, but also to limit the risks of spillage and dispersion of hazardous substances and effluents. With a view to continuing to operate the St 900 beyond the stated deadlines, the operator will then have to carry out an overall compliance study of the St 900 and upgrade it accordingly. The inspectors also noted deviations in the processing of FIFA files ('fast action information sheet') aimed at informing and dealing with deviations from the installation benchmarks and shortcomings in the treatment of deviations in general." [emphasis added]
> Download: ASN Inspection Report INSSN-LYO-2020-1011, Oct. 12, 2020 (552kB PDF - in French)

ASN finds disposal cells for contaminated soil at Orano's Pierrelatte uranium conversion plant 'in unacceptable condition'

On July 2, 2020, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN conducted an inspection of the disposal cells for contaminated soil at the Pierrelatte uranium conversion plant site.
"The inspection of July 2, 2020, focused on the two cells of soil excavated for the construction of Hydrofluoric Acid Storage Unit 61, built in 2009, initially planned for a short period of storage. These cells contain soil with historical radiological pollution (natural and reprocessed uranium) and chemical pollution (in particular fluorides, mercury, and chromium). [...] This inspection was aimed in particular at assessing the demand for the operator to perpetuate these cells by improving their superior coverage.
The conclusions of this inspection are not satisfactory. Indeed, the inspectors noted that two polluted soil cells were in unacceptable condition and that the main regulatory requirements of the decision [2] concerning them were not complied with: top cover degraded and leaky, strong suspicion of leakage of the lower geomembranes, absence of regular maintenance and general surveillance, and lack of management of water collected by drains at the bottom of the cells. In addition, the operator was not able to provide any supporting evidence for the resistance of the geomembrane and its good implementation during the construction of works.
The operator must take corrective action as soon as possible. In view of the non-conformities identified during the inspection relating to the general poor condition of the cells and to the absence of operating and monitoring measures for these installations, ASN asked the operator to declare an event significant for the environment. Finally, the inspectors expressed the feeling that the licensee lacked transparency towards ASN regarding the condition of these storage cells." [emphasis added]
> Download: ASN Inspection Report INSSN-LYO-2020-0889, July 13, 2020 (189kB PDF - in French)

Orano reported 19 incidents at its Pierrelatte uranium conversion plant in 2019

Of the 19 incidents reported by Orano for its Pierrelatte uranium conversion plant in 2019, 13 were classified according to the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES), and six according to the European scale of industrial accidents (ARIA). Most of the INES-rated incidents were related to the temporary exceeding of release limits for various substances in the chimney of the fluorination workshop.
> Download: Rapport d'information du site Orano Tricastin, Edition 2019 , Orano Cycle, June 2020 (3.8MB PDF - in French)
> Download: Supplément du rapport d'information 2019 , Orano Cycle, June 2020 (4.1MB PDF - in French)

ASN finds pollution prevention measures at Orano's Pierrelatte uranium conversion plant 'not satisfactory'

"The inspection of June 8 and 9, 2020 focused on the measures taken by the operator to prevent and manage pollution following spills of dangerous or radioactive substances. This inspection took place only at the facilities. The inspectors were interested in the methods of management of dangerous substances aimed at preventing spillage or pollution, in the management of storm water networks and the containment basin. They visited the storage areas 70 and 71 for hazardous substances, the St100E effluent treatment station, the lifting stations and the containment basin and several unloading and retention areas. They also carried out a simulation exercise of sulfuric acid spillage on the roadway, and the solicitation of the containment basin, without however requesting the intervention of the departmental fire and rescue service (SDIS) of the Drôme.
The conclusions of this inspection are not satisfactory. In fact, the inspectors noted many deviations and areas for improvement. In particular, they detected non-conformities on the retention of the sulfuric acid tank of the effluent treatment plant as well as on the fuel storage and unloading facilities of the new emergency boiler. Furthermore, although the operator has known for more than two years that part of its rainwater network is not intact, it has still not finalized the analysis of the situation or put in place compensatory measures. The inspectors also detected that the operator did not have an up-to-date stormwater network plan taking into account in particular the commissioning of the containment basin in June 2019. The operator will also have to take measures to better manage its retention and label packaging of materials and waste. Finally, it will have to specify the operating methods of the containment basin. As for the exercise, it was possible to identify difficulties, in particular due to a lack of information, encountered by the rescue team in responding to this scenario." [emphasis added]
> Download: ASN Inspection Report INSSN-LYO-2020-0399, June 18, 2020 (597kB PDF - in French)

Orano inaugurates Comurhex 2 ("Philippe Coste") conversion plant at Tricastin

On Monday Sep. 10, 2018, Orano inaugurates its new Comurhex 2 uranium conversion plant at the Tricastin site. The construction cost of Euro 1.15 billion was twice the initial estimate. The additional cost at the Malvési site, where the first stage of the conversion takes place, will be another EUR 150 million. Comurhex 2 reduces the consumption of ammonia, nitric acid and water compared to the old plant shut down at the end of 2017.
The trials of Comurhex 2 started in the spring, but "the hour of truth will be the end of the year," said program director Jean-Luc Vincent, with the first flow of UF6 expected in November. The ramp-up will be gradual: Orano aims for a production of 5,000 t in mid-2019, then to reach its maximum capacity of 15,000 t at the end of 2020. (Les Echos Sep. 10, 2018)
On Dec. 20, 2018, Orano announced that the new Philippe Coste conversion plant has now been successfully commissioned. The major equipment of the industrial process - the flame reactor - was commissioned on December 12, 2018. The plant will reach its rated output of 15,000 tons in 2021, once some more new equipment has been added.

Uranium exposure might be risk factor for circulatory system diseases, study among former Areva conversion plant workers finds

> View here

Areva's Comurhex I conversion plant at Pierrelatte remains closed until improvements of flood protection completed

On Sep. 28, 2017, Areva announced that it is performing works to limit the impacts of a potential flooding of the site in view of the stability problems identified with a flood protection dike (see here). The nuclear safety authority ASN has demanded that the plant remains halted, until the works are completed. Areva expects to complete the works within one month.
On Oct. 23, 2017, nuclear safety authority ASN authorized the resumption of operations at the conversion plant.

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 rolling 12 months standard for continuous occupancy 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 rated the event level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), as Areva failed to adequately report the event for several months. (ASN Oct. 20, 2011)
[BTW, in its annual reports "Rapport d'information sur la sûreté nucléaire et la radioprotection du site AREVA Tricastin", Areva does not report the external radiation doses at the site boundary at all.]

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)
 

Violations regarding waste management revealed at Orano's Usine W depleted uranium deconversion plant and TU5 uranyl nitrate conversion plant

> View here

Justice bars Greenpeace from approaching Orano's uranium transports

The Paris court on Friday (July 19) ordered Greenpeace France to "to not approach within 250 meters" nuclear waste convoys from two Orano subsidiaries (formerly Areva) and to "impede or hinder in any way the loading or unloading operations" of radioactive material. This decision, relayed in a statement by the environmental organization, runs until September 25, when the public debate on the management of radioactive materials in France ends.
On June 12, in particular, activists of Greenpeace France have repainted in fluorescent orange, with the mention "radioactive", five vats of a train carrying reprocessed uranium Vierzon station (Cher). The uranium came from the Orano factory in La Hague, destined for the Pierrelatte plant (Drôme). (Reuters July 19, 2019)

Greenpeace "repaints" train carrying reprocessed uranyl nitrate from La Hague to Pierrelatte

Activists of Greenpeace carried out, Wednesday (June 12) afternoon, in Vierzon station (Cher), a symbolic operation. They repainted part of a train supposed to transport "radioactive" waste between two sites of the Orano nuclear group.
According to the prefecture of Cher, the train left Wednesday morning from Valognes (Manche) and going to Pierrelatte (Drôme), carrying uranyl nitrate, a derivative of uranium. It was the liaison between two sites of the Orano nuclear group (formerly Areva). The convoy resumed its course normally after its scheduled stop in Vierzon station. The identities of the five activists present were noted.
"While a radioactive convoy was passing through Vierzon station, several activists painted two of its vats in orange and affixed a radioactive logo," Greenpeace said in a statement. "Through this action, we denounce the frequency of radioactive convoys that crisscross France every day, including in densely populated urban areas, and the lack of transparency with regard to populations," says the environmental organization. (Le Parisien June 13, 2019)

Orano plans to construct four additional buildings to extend storage capacity for reprocessed uranium at Tricastin

On Oct. 26, 2017, Areva filed a request for a license amendment to construct four additional buildings to increase the authorized storage capacity for reprocessed uranium in the form of U3O8 at Tricastin by 13,950 t U.
At the end of 2016, 29,440 t U of reprocessed uranium in the form of 34,717 t U3O8 were stored in 144,587 barrels at Parcs P17, P18, and P35 in Tricastin, using the licensed capacity to 91%.
The radiation shielding for the new buildings is to be provided by an earthen wall of 6.50 metres height, rather than by depleted uranium oxide, as used in the existing buildings.
> Download: Matières radioactives - Besoins en entreposage de l'uranium appauvri, de l'uranium de recyclage détenus par New AREVA , Groupe de Travail PNGMDR, Montrouge, le 1er décembre 2017 [released on May 24, 2019] (2.3 MB PDF - in French)

Almost 100,000 t of depleted uranium oxide in use as radiation shield for Orano's reprocessed uranium stored at Tricastin

At the end of 2016, 168,600 t U of depleted uranium were stored in the form of 198,821 t U3O8 at Tricastin, almost half of which was used to shield the radiation from 29,440 t U (34,717 t U3O8) of reprocessed uranium stored at Parcs P17, P18, and P35.
> Download: Matières radioactives - Besoins en entreposage de l'uranium appauvri, de l'uranium de recyclage détenus par New AREVA , Groupe de Travail PNGMDR, Montrouge, le 1er décembre 2017 [released on May 24, 2019] (2.3 MB PDF - in French)

ASN identifies numerous violations regarding waste management at Orano's TU5 uranyl nitrate conversion plant

On 6 March 2018, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN carried out an unannounced inspection on the subject of waste management at Orano's Usine W and TU5 uranyl nitrate conversion facilities, which were not operating at the time.
This inspection revealed numerous violations in the regulation and the implementation of the waste management of the facility. ASN rated the event Level 1 of the INES scale. (ASN Mar. 16, 2018)

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.
 


Centifuge Enrichment


Orano Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant, Tricastin (Drôme)

INB No. 168

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

On November 30, during an internal check after a maintenance operation on the Georges Besse II plant, the operator noted a display defect in a material storage room and the presence of 6 vacuum cleaner barrels. instead of 5 as provided for in the standard. These vacuum drums contain small amounts of uranium material, which are recovered following maintenance operations. (Orano Dec. 3, 2020)

ASN detects hole in wall meant to protect Orano's nuclear waste treatment workshop at Tricastin from flooding

On Nov. 5, 2020, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) conducted an inspection at the Integrated treatment of nuclear waste from Tricastin (TRIDENT) workshop (part of INB 138) [formerly SOCATRI].
"A perimeter wall equipped with cofferdams is installed around the TRIDENT workshop in order to provide protection against external flooding and containment of fire extinguishing water from the TRIDENT workshop. During their visit to the workshop, the inspectors noted a square-shaped opening in this low wall that did not fully guarantee its role in protecting against flooding.
Request A1: I ask you to proceed as soon as possible with the filling of the hole in the peripheral protective wall of the TRIDENT workshop." (ASN Nov. 10, 2020)

ASN finds fire prevention measures at Orano's uranium recovery plant at Tricastin 'globally unsatisfactory'

On June 10, 2020, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) conducted an inspection on fire prevention measures at the Uranium Remediation and Recovery Facility (IARU) [formerly SOCATRI].
"The inspection of June 10, 2020 concerned the subject of fire within INB 138, called the Uranium Remediation and Recovery Facility (IARU). The inspectors visited different premises in which the activities of storage, treatment of waste and effluents, repair and decontamination of equipment and utilities take place. The objective of this check was to examine the measures taken to prevent the risks associated with the fire and to verify, on a sample basis, compliance with the commitments made to ASN during previous inspections on this subject.
The conclusions of this inspection are mixed and globally unsatisfactory. Firstly, the inspectors noted progress in your management of the heat load, both organizationally and operationally. Commitments have been kept, such as the completion of work on the fire extinguishing water retention facilities and compliance with smoking bans outside designated areas. The inspection deadlines for mobile intervention resources verified by the inspectors are respected.
However, some shortcomings, notable for some, were noted by the inspectors. Thus, it was observed that regulatory deviations persist in room 35D, a contaminated solvent storage area. The inspectors also noted shortcomings in the management of fire detection systems. Control of the fire risk for the laundromat needs to be demonstrated or reinforced, if necessary. Finally, corrective actions are expected in your risk prevention practices, heat load management, accessibility of response resources and provisions for limiting the consequences of a fire." [emphasis added]
> Download: ASN Inspection Report INSSN-LYO-2020-0406, June 24, 2020 (238kB PDF - in French)

In addition, ASN held a remote inspection of the same site on June 23, 2020. ASN found the results to be 'globally unsatisfactory', again.

Non-commissioning of an automatic seismic detection and cut-off system at Orano's Tricastin site

On 24 October 2019, following the annual verification check of the automatic closing of the valves in the event of seismic detection, the operator identified that the seismic detection device at the SOCATRI uranium recovery plant on Orano's Tricastin site had never been put into service. The event was ranked at level 1 of the INES scale. (ASN Nov. 29, 2019)

Earthquake has no impact on Orano Tricastin site

In the late morning [of Nov. 11, 2019], the earthquake that occurred near the Montélimar basin was felt on the Orano Tricastin site.
The observed intensity of the shaking was lower than the trigger values of the site security systems. No damage was observed on our installations. There has been no impact on the safety of our facilities that are currently operating. (Orano Nov. 11, 2019)

Anomaly with cooling of uranium hexafluoride cylinders at Orano's Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant

The enrichment company of Tricastin, a subsidiary of Orano Cycle, declared on 19 October 2018 to ASN a significant event relating to the non-respect of a security requirement relating to the prohibition to move in its enrichment plant a container holding not fully solidified uranium hexafluoride (UF6).
In this plant, UF6 is enriched in isotope 235 by a centrifugation process. For the purposes of the industrial process, the UF6 of the containers is liquefied by heating in an autoclave before sampling. The containers must then be cooled for a period of time sufficient to ensure complete solidification of the UF6 before leaving the autoclave, according to a requirement of the safety reference system of the installation. Indeed, in the event of damage to a container, solidified UF6 presents less risk for employees and the environment.
By analyzing the evolution profile of the internal pressure of the last sampled containers, the operator found, on 17 October 2018, that it was unable to guarantee the complete solidification of UF6 at the end of the time he has set for cooling the containers. Thus containers could be removed from the autoclaves without complete solidification of the UF6.
As there was no event affecting the tightness of the displaced UF6 containers, this difference did not result in any impact on the facility, personnel or environment.
Given the non-compliance with a security requirement that affected several UF6 containers, the incident was rated at level 1 of the INES (International Nuclear Event Scale) scale of 8. (ASN Oct. 29, 2018)

Three workers exposed to fumes from burning depleted uranium shavings near Areva's Tricastin site

After a fire at the company STMI [Areva's subsidiary Société des Techniques en Milieu Ionisant] of Bollène Monday (Oct. 9), in a hangar containing barrels of depleted uranium, three people were taken care of, exposed to "slightly radioactive" smoke, says the prefecture.
It is the second fire in 15 days at the same place: this Monday in Bollène, the alert was given at 12:16, in a hangar containing barrels of depleted uranium shavings. The fire started while one of these barrels was handled. Immediately the employees, helped by the firemen, were able to extinguish the fire.
The prefecture says, that there was no release outside the hangar where the fire took place. The prefect of Vaucluse asked the company to suspend the handling of drums at this location, time for further appraisals and inspections. (France Bleu Oct. 10, 2017)

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. On Sep. 28, 2017, ASN raised the rating to Level 2.

> See also: Areva's Comurhex I conversion plant at Pierrelatte remains closed until improvements of flood protection completed
> See also: Nuclear Safety Authority demands improvement of flood protection at Areva's Usine W depleted uranium deconversion plant

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)

On Jan. 4, 2017, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) held an unannounced inspection at the site.
"The inspection findings confirmed the existence of a safety culture failure: operation of the autoclave was continued for two weeks after the discovery of the unavailability of the water detection probe, subject to the implementation of a compensatory measure set up by the local team without any formality. In addition, the operator has detected a wiring error in the affected probe, but he was all the less able to explain the origin that he holds an FEE [test execution sheets] which would have shown a good functioning of the water detection (probe, electrical transmission and display) when it is put into service. In addition, the traces of the temperature recordings inside the autoclaves show anomalies which will need to be analyzed. In addition, when the unavailability of a water detection probe does not set off an alarm, the operator must propose a robust measure to ensure that an autoclave cannot be put into operation if it contains water. At the end of the inspection, ASN has requested the reclassification of the significant event causing the inspection to level 1 of the scale of the International Nuclear Events Institute (INES) which has 8. [...]" (ASN Jan. 25, 2017) [emphasis added]

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)

ASN finds pollution prevention at Areva's Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant 'not satisfactory'

On Dec. 16, 2014, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) held an inspection of Areva's Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant.
"The conclusions of the inspection are not satisfactory. Indeed, the inspectors noted failures or inadequacies concerning the various aspects of the management of refrigeration units discussed during the inspection: commissioning of equipment with a fluoride refrigerant leak, undefined requirements and methods of use of leak detection systems, missing certificate of competence of an operator carrying out periodic leakage checks, anomalies concerning the performance of periodic checks, insufficient traceability of evidence of different interventions carried out on each piece of equipment. After chronic leaks having been detected on certain refrigeration units since their installation, the operator has since 2012 realized technical improvements aimed at restoring a normal operating situation of these groups. While the operation and maintenance of the refrigeration units at the George Besse II plant are subcontracted to specialized companies, the operator must remain involved in the reception, maintenance and the operation of this equipment." (ASN Jan. 7, 2015) [emphasis added]

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 )


Gaseous Diffusion Enrichment


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)

ASN identifies deficiencies that led to overfilling of 48Y cylinder at Eurodif enrichment plant

On Feb. 9, 2012, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) held an inspection at the Eurodif gaseous diffusion enrichment plant.
"The inspectors noted that an ED [defined requirement] relating to the redundancy of the shutdown system of the filling of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) containers, to include valves and automatisms, was not observed and had led to the overfilling of a 48Y type container. Failure to comply with the ED and the consequent overfilling have, following the inspection, made the subject by the operator of the notification to ASN of an event significant for safety. The resulting corrective actions must be taken as quickly as possible." (ASN Feb. 20, 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)

Incidents at Tricastin enrichment plant

Tricastin events (ASN, in French)
 

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