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Current Issues: Operating Nuclear Fuel Plants - France

(last updated 24 Apr 2021)

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

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

Violation of criticality rules at MELOX MOX fuel plant

On Feb. 26, 2021, a sample of pellets was transferred from one glovebox to another, without keeping track of it. After checking, it was found that the safety limits of the workstation had not been exceeded. The event had no consequences for personnel or the environment. Orano proposed to rate the event Level 1 on the INES scale. (Orano Mar. 3, 2021)

Orano applies for license to export equipment left over from canceled U.S. MOX fuel plant to MELOX fuel plant in France

> View here

Five significant events declared at Orano's Melox MOX nuclear fuel plant in 2019

All of these events were rated Level 0 on the INES scale.
> Download: Rapport d'information du site Orano Melox 2019 (4.1MB PDF - in French)

Technician receives radiation overdose at Orano's Melox MOX nuclear fuel plant

On February 11, a monitoring sensor triggered an alarm while a technician was performing a glove box handling operation in a workshop at the Orano Melox plant. The operator immediately donned the appropriate mask and evacuated the work room.
[...] the evaluation carried out by the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) shows that the dose received by the technician would exceed the regulatory annual limit.
The study conducted subsequent to this incident showed that the glove used at the workstation had been perforated.
Orano Melox has proposed to classify this incident as level 2 on the INES scale. (Orano June 24, 2020)

Difficulties in manufacture of MOX fuel again lead to significant nuclear safety event in all 22 reactors of 900 MWe using this fuel

EDF has reclassified to level 1 of the INES scale a significant nuclear safety event relating to the combination of two anomalies affecting the fuel based on mixed uranium and plutonium oxide (MOX) from certain 900 MWe nuclear reactors: The combination of these two anomalies calls into question the demonstration of the integrity of the fuel during certain infrequent incident situations. This significant event concerns all 22 reactors of 900 MWe using MOX fuel [1].
This significant event, which was initially classified as level 0 on the INES scale in 2017, led EDF to implement operating compensation measures on the reactors concerned as well as modifications in the MOX fuel production line.
The occurrence of new difficulties in 2019 during the manufacture of MOX fuel shows that the corrective actions implemented still do not exclude the occasional presence of plutoniferous particles of sizes larger than the usual specifications. Additional corrective actions have therefore been implemented in order to reduce their occurrence.
In addition, EDF identified in 2019 that the higher than expected neutron flux rise concerns not only the bottom of the assembly, as was highlighted in 2017, but also the top. EDF has therefore defined additional operating compensation measures.
Given the timeframe for implementing all of the compensatory measures and first measures which have proven ineffective, the event was reclassified in November 2019 to level 1 of the INES scale for all 900 reactors MWe using MOX fuel.
[1] These are the reactors of the Saint-Laurent-des-Eaux, Tricastin, Gravelines, Chinon B, Dampierre nuclear power plants and reactors 1 and 2 of the Blayais nuclear power plant.
(ASN Dec. 24, 2019)

Violation of criticality rules at MELOX MOX fuel plant

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

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

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

Violation of criticality rules at MELOX MOX fuel plant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Areva Inc. has applied for an NRC export licence for up to 100 t of depleted UO2 powder per year from its Richland, Washington, nuclear fuel plant to Marcoule:
"AREVA's MELOX facility near Avignon, France produces mixed-oxide LWR fuel for power reactor customers. The 'burnable' part of this MOX fuel is plutonium oxide, which is supplied to MELOX from AREVA's spent fuel recycling facility in France. The Pu oxide makes up at maximum just 10% of the weight of the MOX fuel pellet. Depleted uranium is used as a diluent, making up the remaining 90+% of the fuel pellets. Around 2011 MELOX switched its supplier of U-oxide powder to AREVA's Lingen, Germany fuel fabrication facility. The previous supplier in France has ceased operation. For various reasons, AREVA is now looking at several different alternatives for supply of U-oxide for MELOX. AREVA's Richland facility has been specifically asked to develop alternative types of U-oxide powder for testing and possible use as a supplement to, or substitute for, the Lingen powder."
(Application for NRC Export Licence XSOU-8833, March 24, 2014 , ADAMS Acc. No. ML14090A010)
On Aug. 22, 2014, NRC issued the requested export license for a total of 750 t of depleted uranium in the form of uranium dioxide powder (UO2), with an expiration date of Dec. 31, 2019.
> Download Export License XSOU-8833
On Dec. 23, 2014, NRC issued Amendment No. 1 to the export license.
On March 26, 2018, NRC terminated the license, since it is "no longer needed" as its "export has been completed", thus avoiding the necessity for another amendment that would have been required to reflect the name change from Areva Inc. to Framatome.

MELOX plant ships MOX fuel elements in uncertified container models

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

Areva suspends capacity increase at MELOX MOX fuel plant

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

Contamination incident at MELOX MOX fuel plant

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

MELOX SA new owner of MELOX MOX fuel plant

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

Worker contaminated in glove box accident at MELOX fuel fabrication plant

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

MOX fuel lots mixed up at MELOX fuel fabrication plant

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

Violation of criticality rules at MELOX MOX fuel plant

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

Spill at Marcoule waste water treatment plant

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

Violation of criticality rules at MELOX MOX fuel plant

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

Government authorizes further capacity increase for MELOX MOX fuel plant

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

Public Inquiry into further extension of MELOX MOX fuel plant

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

MELOX MOX fuel fabrication plant requests further capacity increase

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

ASN authorizes capacity increase for MELOX MOX fuel plant

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

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

Elevated radiation found near MELOX MOX fuel plant

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

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

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

Public Inquiry into extension of MELOX MOX fuel plant

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

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

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

Incidents at MELOX MOX fuel plant

Marcoule events (ASN, in French)
 

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

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

Violation of criticality rules at Framatome's FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On April 19, while a sieving operation was planned, several containers holding fine particles of recovered uranium-bearing material were transported together, in a cart not designed for this purpose. This constituted a deviation from the general operating rules relating to the prevention of criticality risk. As soon as this anomaly was detected, the containers were isolated. The situation detected does not call into question the safety margins. (Framatome Apr. 20, 2021)

Because of the failure to comply with the facility's safety standards for criticality risk prevention, the incident was classified as level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Apr. 22, 2021)

Violation of criticality rules at Framatome's FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On April 7, during a cleaning operation in a shutdown workshop at Effluent and Waste Treatment Unit, the presence of uranium-bearing materials not listed in the tracking system was detected. This discrepancy in accounting led to an excess of the authorized mass of uranium 235 in this workshop. As soon as it was detected, the drums containing these materials were transferred to a suitable storage area, allowing a return to a compliant situation. The exceeding of this limit did not call into question the safety margins. (Framatome Apr. 13, 2021)

Because of the failure to comply with the facility's safety baseline relating to criticality risk prevention, the incident was classified at level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Apr. 14, 2021)

Framatome prepares to manufacture nuclear fuel from reprocessed uranium at its FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

"Our client EDF has asked us to manufacture Uranium from reprocessing (URE) fuels from 2023 for a period of about 10 years: 2023: up to 150 t of U232 at 15 ppb; 2025: up to 300 t of U232 at 30 ppb"
"URE has different radiological characteristics than Natural Enriched Uranium.
The Romans site will therefore carry out actions to optimize radiation protection by implementing technical or organizational modifications in order to reduce the radiological impact of the URE. Work will take place in the south of the site, including the evacuation of unmarked soil, in order to store the cylinders containing this URE." (Framatome presentation at Assemblée générale de la Commission Locale d'Information, Nov. 19, 2020)

> See also here

Violation of criticality rules at Framatome's FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On March 17, 2021, during a packaging operation, a batch of [highly enriched] fuel plates (for research reactors) was made slightly exceeding the material mass limit authorized in the general operating rules. (Framatome Mar. 19, 2021)

Due to non-compliance with a safety rule relating to the prevention of criticality risk, the incident was classified at level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Mar. 23, 2021)

Violation of criticality rules at Framatome's FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Jan. 13, 2021, due to an electric fault, excessive amounts of criticality-relevant additives were added to uranium powder in the pelletizing workshop at Framatome's FBFC Romans-sur-Isère nuclear fuel fabrication plant. (Framatome Jan. 20, 2021)

Due to non-compliance with the installation safety benchmark relating to the prevention of criticality risk, the incident was classified at level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Jan. 22, 2021)

Violation of criticality rules at Framatome's FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Nov. 27, 2020, it was detected that excessive amounts of criticality-relevant additives were added to uranium powder in the pelletizing workshop at Framatome's FBFC Romans-sur-Isère nuclear fuel fabrication plant. (Framatome Dec. 1, 2020)

After carrying out an inspection of the respective workshop on Dec. 16, 2020, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN requested Orano to improve the supervision of the tasks performed in the workshop. (ASN Dec. 23, 2020)

Greenpeace holds protest at Framatome Romans-sur-Isère plant against nuclear fuel transport to EPR Flamanville reactor

On Sunday, October 25, around thirty Greenpeace activists gathered at around 6 p.m. in front of the Framatome site in Romans-sur-Isère.
They were protesting in the face of a uranium convoy which must leave the Roman site for the EPR reactor at Flamanville (Manche). The protectors of the environment pointed out the dangerousness, according to them, of the Normandy site and the risks caused by this convoy of nuclear materials. (Le Dauphiné Libéré Oct. 25, 2020)

Public consultation on measures planned to reduce releases from Framatome's FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

Submit comments by July 31, 2020.
> View: ASN notice July 1, 2020 (in French)

Violation of criticality rules at Framatome's FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On June 19, 2020, during a cleaning operation of equipment in the pelletizing workshop, a "bottle" was filled beyond the mass limit given in the rules operating conditions of this workshop. This situation results from the incorrect repositioning of a valve after its repair.
The incident was classified at level 1 of the INES scale. (ASN June 30, 2020)

Violation of criticality rules with highly enriched uranium at Framatome's FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

The event took place in the basic nuclear installation 63 dedicated to the fabrication of fuel elements for research reactors and of radiation targets for medical use. The nuclear material used in this facility is highly enriched uranium. This uranium is shaped into objects called "cores," which are then used to make fuel plates. The uranium-bearing material is stored in referenced lockers. In order to prevent the risk of criticality, locking of the locker doors is required, in order to guarantee the location of uranium-bearing material in the cells of the storage lockers in the event of an earthquake.
On February 25, 2020, during a periodic sampling check for the correct closure of the storage lockers, it was detected that two lockers were not locked. As soon as this anomaly was detected, Framatome teams launched a campaign to check all the lockers, which revealed that another locker in another storage cell was not locked.
The Nuclear Safety Authority rated the event at INES level 1. (ASN Mar. 2, 2020)

Violation of criticality rules at Framatome's FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On July 16, 2019, during a maintenance operation at the level of the grinding machines, wet uranium material was recovered in a suitable bottle and stored on a site dedicated to the 50 liter filter cans. This location is not authorized for the storage of this type of can and material.
The Nuclear Safety Authority rated the event at INES level 1. (ASN July 29, 2019)

Violation of criticality rules at Framatome's FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

In mid-July, as part of an internal control, it was found that the uranium mass limit in a bin (in the research fuel fabrication facility) was exceeded. This overrun constitutes a departure from the general operating rules with regard to the prevention of the criticality risk. (Framatome July 24, 2019)
The Nuclear Safety Authority rated the event at INES level 1. (ASN July 29, 2019)

Violation of criticality rules at Framatome's FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On July 12, 2019, an employee found the presence of a trolley of nuclear materials out of its dedicated location. This event, which had no impact on staff or the environment, constitutes a departure from the general operating rules, relating to the prevention of criticality risk. (Framatome July 19, 2019)
The Nuclear Safety Authority rated the event at INES level 1. (ASN July 29, 2019)

Violation of criticality rules at Framatome's FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On March 7, 2019, the Framatome Romans teams identified the presence of uranium materials packaged and stored in vinyl bags at one of the old pellet grinding machines currently being dismantled. Vinyl bags used for packaging are not permitted for temporary storage.
As soon as the gap was discovered, the material was packaged in drums, in accordance with the safety standards. This event had no impact on the staff or the environment. However, Framatome Romans considered that this event showed a non-compliance with the criticality rules and proposed to the Nuclear Safety Authority to classify it at level 1 of the international scale of nuclear events (INES). (Framatome Mar. 12, 2019)

Unexpected accumulation of fuel pellet grindings detected at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On November 21, during the weekly cleaning operation of a grinding machine, operators detected an unusual accumulation of fissile materials. The accumulated amount was larger than assumed for the safety analysis performed to demonstrate the absence of a criticality hazard. Verifications conducted after the event showed that the geometry insured that no criticality could occur. The event was rated Level 1 on the INES scale. (Framatome Dec. 3, 2018 / ASN Dec. 10, 2018)

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Sep. 25, 2018, an excessive amount of fissionable material was found at a workshop of the research fuel fabrication facility of the nuclear fuel plant. (Framatome Sep. 28, 2018)

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Aug. 30, 2018, a cart carrying canisters with uranium material recovered from the fuel tablet workshop for reuse in the production process was found in an unauthorized place. (Framatome Sep. 7, 2018)

ASN finds numerous violations regarding waste management at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On Aug. 7, 2018, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) conducted an unannounced inspection at the FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant.
"The inspection revealed that several regulatory requirements relating to waste management were not met. In particular, the operator must take measures to ensure that no waste packages are stored outside the waste storage areas that they have defined for this purpose in their study on waste management. He will also have to review its practices for posting waste collection points, bags of waste, waste packages being filled and waste packages formed, in order to comply with regulatory obligations for posting waste containers. The operator will also have to review his organization to ensure the traceability and characterization of all the waste it produces, in accordance with the provisions in force. He will also have to ensure that all nuclear waste containers that leave a Zone of Possible Nuclear Waste Production (ZPPDN) are subject to a formal radiological control for the absence of surface contamination. Finally, given the malfunctions noted for the creation of the new waste storage area (contaminated rubble bins), the operator must ensure that he creates or modifies waste storage areas in line with his facility modification process." (ASN Aug. 20, 2018) [emphasis added]

Framatome to produce reprocessed uranium fuel for use in French reactors

Framatome will be designing, fabricating and supplying EDF with fuel assemblies using enriched reprocessed uranium* (known as "ERU")over the period 2023 to 2032 (1).
These fuel assemblies, set to be manufactured at Framatome's plant in Romans-sur-Isère (Drôme, France), will be destined for a number of nuclear reactors - belonging to EDF's fleet in operation - authorized to use them.

* Uranium derived from the reprocessing of used fuel (RepU or RU) can, once enriched (then called ERU), be used again to manufacture fuel for nuclear power plants.
(1) Project subject to administrative and regulatory authorizations.
(Framatome May 23, 2018)

> See also here

Nuclear Safety Authority ASN lifts tightened oversight on Framatome Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On May 3, 2018, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) announced that it has lifted the tightened oversight imposed in 2014 on Framatome's Romans-sur-Isère nuclear fuel fabrication plant in view of the improvements performed.

However, in a review of the four years of tightened oversight, as presented at the May 31, 2018, meeting of the CLI Framatome Romans, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN stated concerning the management of the criticality hazard at the plant: "Results: Decrease in deviations from criticality rules. There remain gaps related to the design of old equipment (especially the R1 workshop for the recycling of manufacturing scrap)." [emphasis added]
> Download: CLI de Framatome - Bilan du contrôle du site en 2017 , ASN Division de Lyon, Valence - 31 mai 2018 (578kB PDF in French)

Partial flooding of Framatome's Romans-sur-Isère nuclear fuel fabrication plant due to pipe rupture

On 2 March 2018, Framatome reported to the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) a significant event relating to the partial flooding of the so-called recycling workshop, which is a building containing nuclear material and in which rejected products are reworked for re-use in the production line. This partial flood was caused by the rupture of a heating pipe.
The Basic Nuclear Installation (INB) No. 98 is dedicated to the manufacture of new fuel elements used in pressurized water reactors, such as those operated by EDF. In this facility, the nuclear material used is uranium with a maximum enrichment rate of 5%. The recycling workshop implements various processes, the common goal of which is to recover the uranium contained in certain by-products and rejects from the other workshops of the facility. This workshop must be kept in depression with respect to the external atmosphere to ensure the confinement of the nuclear material: this depression is ensured by means of a ventilation system.
On February 28, 2018, an operator accidentally discovered that the ventilation room in the recycling shop was flooded. After investigation, it turned out that the water came from the heating circuit of the building's general ventilation.
Water infiltrated into the building's control room, as well as into an electrical room under the room containing the ventilation system. These infiltrations of water have degraded an electrical cabinet and have resulted in the failure of systems providing various safety functions of the building, including ventilation and the leak detection system retention tanks that are used to recover any leaks chemicals used in the workshop.
As soon as this partial flood was detected, the Framatome teams stopped the flow and suspended the operation of the building, where the processes were put in the safety position. Ground water has been pumped and will be analyzed for further processing.
There was no water flow outside the building.
This event had no impact on workers or the environment.
On March 5, 2018, an inspection was conducted by ASN on this event. Following this inspection, ASN asked Framatome to reinforce its monitoring of the recycling building, to extend it to the hours at which operating personnel are absent (nights, weekends and public holidays).
Due to the failure of systems providing security functions in the building, the incident was rated Level 1 on the INES scale (International Nuclear Event Scale 0-7 in increasing order of severity). (ASN Mar. 9, 2018)

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

On the occasion of the cleaning of a uranium oxide fuel pellet production line, the operator noted the abnormal plugging of a funnel intended for the recovery of fragments of nuclear material. The unplugging procedure of this funnel has not been formally prepared, it has led to the filling of a vinyl bag with an abnormal amount of nuclear material and the dispersion of a small amount of material on the ground.
The bag used did not respect the geometry to guarantee the absence of risk of criticality. It has, moreover, been filled with a quantity of material exceeding the limit allowed by the general rules of operation for the receptacles intended to receive this type of material.
After transferring the contents of the bag into two containers provided for this purpose, accompanied by the cleaning of the material on the ground, the production line was normally restarted.
Despite the non-compliance with the general operating rules, no criticality accident occurred. In addition, during the intervention, the workers wore respirators for the respiratory tract. Finally, the material remained confined in the room. This event therefore had no impact on workers or the environment. The incident was rated Level 1 on the INES scale. (ASN Dec. 28, 2017)

Urenco Almelo (Netherlands) sends enriched uranium hexafluoride in unsuitable cylinder to Areva Romans fuel manufacturing plant in France

> View here

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

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

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

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

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

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

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

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

ASN assesses waste management at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant 'not satisfactory'

On Mar. 9, 2016, the Nuclear Safety Authority held an unannounced inspection at the FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant.
"The results of this inspection are not satisfactory. The visit to the laboratory highlighted a good maintenance of facilities and waste collection points but raised gaps in the control of risk of contamination transfer at the interfaces between nuclear waste zones and those with conventional waste. In addition, the inspectors witnessed the orientation of a bag of waste towards the wrong disposal process; however, this discrepancy was immediately corrected. Visiting other installations revealed some more minor deviations.[...]" (ASN Mar. 25, 2016) [emphasis added]

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

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

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

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

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

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

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

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

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

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

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

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

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

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

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

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

Event at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

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

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

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

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

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

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

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

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

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

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

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

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

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

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

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

Violation of criticality rules at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

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

ASN finds radiation protection at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant 'not satisfactory'

On Apr. 19, 2012, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) held an inspection of the FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant.
"The conclusions of this inspection are not satisfactory. The inspectors found breaches of several regulatory requirements relating to radiation protection in the areas mentioned previously. This inspection also revealed weaknesses in the assessment and for optimizing exposure to ionizing radiation. Improvements are in particular to provide in the application of the principle of optimization, the monitoring of training, the establishment for each worker with an exposure sheet and monitoring of external technical controls. Inspectors nevertheless appreciated the actions taken by the operational radiation protection service to improve daily radiological cleanliness of the premises." (ASN May 11, 2012) [emphasis added]

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

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

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

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

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

FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant applies for capacity increase

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

Incidents at FBFC nuclear fuel fabrication plant

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

> View more recent issues

Violation of criticality rules at Cadarache MOX fuel fabrication plant

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

Violation of criticality rules at Cadarache MOX fuel fabrication plant

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

Violation of criticality rules at Cadarache MOX fuel fabrication plant

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

Surplus enriched uranium found at Cadarache MOX fuel fabrication plant

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

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

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

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

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

 

CRIIRAD presents study on environmental impact of Cadarache nuclear site

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


 

Cadarache factory will close in late 2002 or early 2003

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

Cadarache Special of Plutonium Investigation newsletter

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

COGEMA confirms plans for closure of Cadarache MOX fuel plant

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

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

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

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

Incidents at Cadarache MOX fuel plant

Cadarache events (ASN, in French)
 

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

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

> View more recent issues

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

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

Incidents at COGEMA/SICN nuclear fuel plant

SICN fuel plant events (ASN - in French)
 

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