Uranium Enrichment and Fuel Fabrication - Decommissioning Issues (Europe)
(last updated 27 Apr 2022)
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> United Kingdom's stocks of civil plutonium and uranium (HSE)
United Kingdom concentrates all of its civil plutonium stockhodings in Sellafield
The Dounreay stock of civil separated plutonium is now safely stored at Sellafield following completion of a phased transfer programme involving a range of organisations.
Dounreay site in Caithness, the UK's former centre of fast reactor research and development
This means that all significant UK stocks of this material are now held at Sellafield - the centre of excellence [!] for plutonium management.
(NDA Dec. 23, 2019)
Reuse remains NDA's preferred option for the disposition of UK's plutonium stocks
"In summary, this work has resulted in NDA concluding that reuse remains the preferred option and, based on the information provided and against our definitions, there are three credible reuse options: - reuse as MOX in light water reactors, reuse in CANDU EC6 reactors and reuse in PRISM fast reactors. We note all the technologies being considered have pros and cons and that no 'perfect' solution exists. It may be that a multi-track approach offers best value for money.
Currently, we believe there is insufficient understanding of the options to confidently move into implementation and consider that significant further work must be undertaken, focusing on technical and commercial risks and uncertainties, to enable DECC and UK Government to ultimately select and subsequently implement its preferred reuse option."
> View NDA release Jan. 20, 2014
> Download NDA position paper Jan. 2014 (109k PDF)
UK Nuclear Decommmissioning Authority's management strategy for "materials" / wastes containing uranium (in particular depleted uranium): wait and see
The UK Nuclear Decommmissioning Authority (NDA) has published a summary of Credible Options for the management of uranics on the NDA estate. The NDA owns a range of materials containing uranium (termed uranics) arising from historic or current nuclear fuel cycle operations. The bulk of the material is depleted uranium, including approx. 21,500 teU in uranium hexafluoride tails (UF6), and 26,000 teU in Magnox Depleted Uranium (UO3).
> View NDA release Jan. 17, 2014
> Download Uranics - Credible Options Summary (Gate A), January 2014 (99k PDF - NDA)
Britain eyes Japanese participation in plans to reuse plutonium stocks
Britain is likely to convert plutonium stocks into nuclear fuel and will be seeking Japanese involvement in the project, according to government officials.
The government's preferred option is to turn the stockpile into mixed uranium and plutonium oxide nuclear fuel (MOX) to power civil reactors.
Britain stores around 112 tons of plutonium, of which 11.6 tons belong to Japanese firms as a result of reprocessing nuclear fuel at the Sellafield complex in Cumbria, northwest Britain.
Officials are now studying the plan to ensure it is affordable, deliverable, offers value for money and can be implemented safely.
The government is expected to make a final decision in 2015 -- with the facility due to come onstream by 2024 -- and as part of the consultation will be sounding out Japanese utility companies that hold plutonium at Sellafield.
If Japanese companies do not wish to participate in the project, which would involve the construction of a new MOX plant, Britain may consider taking ownership of their plutonium, subject to commercial terms and international agreements.
Bill Hamilton, head of stakeholder communications at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority or NDA, said commitments from Japanese utilities are "important" but not "critical" to the project getting the green light. Estimated costs are 3 billion pounds ($4.7 billion).
(Mainichi Daily News Feb. 29, 2011)
NDA seeking proposals for alternatives to re-use of plutonium as MOX fuel
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is seeking proposals on potential alternative approaches for managing the UK's plutonium stocks alongside providing support to the Government as it progresses its preferred policy of converting the material into Mixed Oxide fuel (MOX) for reactors.
Expressions of interest must be received by 31 March 2012.
> View NDA release Feb. 23, 2012
UK government starts consultation on management of plutonium stocks, prefers reuse in MOX fuel, implying construction of new MOX fuel plant
On Feb. 7, 2011, the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change launched a public consultation on the management of the country's plutonium stocks.
The government's "preliminary policy view" is that the use in MOX fuel is the preferred option. This would require the construction of a new MOX fuel plant, as the existing plant is almost dysfunctional.
Close date: May 10, 2011.
> View DECC release Feb. 7, 2011
> View Consultation on management of the UK's plutonium stocks (DECC)
UK Nuclear Decommmissioning Authority seeks advice on plutonium disposition
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) are seeking expressions of interest from Parties who are suitably qualified and experienced in providing Plutonium (Pu) Disposition Advice.
Closing Date: 28 April 2008
> View NDA release Apr. 1, 2008
UK's separated plutonium stockpile poses severe risks warns Royal Society
The potential consequences of a major security breach or accident involving the UK's stockpile of separated plutonium are so severe that the Government should urgently develop and implement a strategy for its long term use or disposal warns a report published by the Royal Society the UK national academy of science on 21 September 2007.
According to Strategy options for the UK's separated plutonium the UK's civil stockpile of separated plutonium is now over 100 tonnes and has almost doubled in the last 10 years. The UK's stockpile is largely the by-product of commercial reprocessing of spent fuel from UK power plants.
> View Royal Society release Sep. 21, 2007
> Download Strategy options for the UK's separated plutonium, Policy document 24/07, September 2007 (The Royal Society)
Study analyses economics of management options for UK uranium and plutonium stockpile
The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority released a study analysing the economics of various management options for the UK uranium and plutonium stockpile.
The stockpile comprises:
The management options analysed were disposal as waste, 300-year storage with subsequent disposal as waste, and use for production of nuclear fuel. In the latter case, the plutonium could be processed into 1,500 t HM of PWR fuel, and the uranium could be processed into 500 - 2,500 t U of PWR fuel, depending on the future price of uranium. The total would be sufficient to supply 1.5 to 3 reactors of 1000 MWe capacity over a 60 year lifetime. The cost for these options were determined as follows:
- 25,000 t U in depleted UF6 tails from enrichment of natural uranium
- 30,000 t U in depleted uranium powder from reprocessing of spent fuel from Magnox reactors
- 5,000 t U in uranium powder from reprocessing of spent fuel from AGR reactors
- 100 t Pu in PuO2 powder from reprocessing of spent fuel from Magnox and AGR reactors
The study concludes:
GBP 2 - 3 billion (undiscounted), or GBP 1 billion (discounted)
- Storage + Disposal:
GBP 3.5 - 7 billion (undiscounted), or GBP 0.3 billion (discounted)
GBP 3.5 billion benefit to GBP 2.5 billion cost (undiscounted), or GBP 2 billion benefit to GBP 1 billion cost (undiscounted), depending on uranium price.
- Disposal: is low risk and, if the uranium price is low, it is either the lowest
undiscounted cost option or close to it;
- Storage + Disposal: keeps options open and delays costs for significant periods (significantly reducing the present value of costs when discounted);
- Use: may release significant value from the materials (particularly if the uranium price is high) but is subject to significant downside risks.
> Download: Uranium and Plutonium: Macro-economic Study, Final Report , UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, June 2007 (396k PDF)
> See also: BNFL's depleted uranium storage facility at former Capenhurst gaseous diffusion plant (UK)
> See also: Urenco Capenhurst enrichment plant (United Kingdom)
Decommissioning of cubicles completed at former Capenhurst gaseous diffusion enrichment plant
Urenco Nuclear Stewardship houses the UK's former Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which was historically used in the uranium enrichment process.
This plant has reached another milestone through the completion of the decommissioning of cubicles that were once used for processing enriched materials.
The building has been successfully cleared following safe dismantling, decontamination, and disposal of wastes. The nature of the material processed, meant the cubicles were identified as one of the biggest challenges of the £300 million [US$ 414 million] contract with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).
(Urenco Mar. 22, 2021)
Nuclear Decommissioning Authority transfers its Capenhurst site to Urenco
On 30 November 2012, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority announced that it has completed the transfer of its Capenhurst site, in Cheshire, continuing an asset disposal programme which has now brought in well over GBP 1 billion for the UK taxpayer.
Under the deal, Capenhurst Nuclear Services (CNS), a URENCO Group company, will take ownership of the land, combining it with an adjacent site it already owns to create one nuclear licensed site.
Uranium spill found at Sellafield Ltd Capenhurst site
Sellafield Limited - Capenhurst Works - 28 February 2012:
During planned site decommissioning operations, a quantity of historical uranium contaminated water and sludge was found in a radiologically controlled area that was recently undergoing decommissioning clean up operations. The spillage was contained within concrete service channels, which were underneath steel plate covers.
Detailed analysis of the water and sludge was promptly conducted, in order to confirm the actions required to safely remove the material.
There has been no injury or damage, no significant release of radioactive material, there was no potential for any off-site hazard and the public were not affected.
(HSE Office for Nuclear Regulation: Statement of nuclear incidents at nuclear installations - Q1 2012)
Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Urenco sign agreement on transfer of NDA's Capenhurst site to Urenco
"An agreement has today been signed confirming the future transfer of the NDA-owned site at Capenhurst to URENCO, which occupies the adjacent nuclear-licensed site in Cheshire.
The transition will result in the disposal of some NDA-owned land on and adjacent to the site, enabling the Capenhurst site to transition to single licensee status. Existing decommissioning and storage operations currently undertaken by Sellafield Ltd will transfer to URENCO.
NDA and URENCO have also signed an agreement for the processing of government-owned by-product/legacy material from uranium enrichment (known as "Tails") through URENCO's Tails Management Facility. Most of this material is currently stored at the NDA site at Capenhurst.
It is anticipated that this agreement will reduce NDA's net liabilities for managing and clearing the site while also paving the way for URENCO to invest in new facilities as required in order to meet future customer demand."
(NDA Dec. 1, 2011)
Nuclear Decommissioning Authority may transfer Capenhurst site to Urenco
The UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is considering transferring management and operation of its Capenhurst operations to Urenco , which already owns and operates a centrifuge uranium enrichment plant on part of the site.
The Capenhurst site is currently split into two parts. One part - a former diffusion uranium enrichment plant that shut down in 1982 - is owned by the NDA and operated by contractor Sellafield Ltd. While most of the plant has now been decommissioned, uranic material (primarily depleted uranium and uranium hexafluoride) is expected to be stored on the site until 2120. The other part of the Capenhurst site comprises Urenco's operating enrichment plant.
The NDA and Urenco have announced the signing of a set of non-binding commercial principles to support a potential transfer of the NDA portion of the site to Urenco. Under the proposed transaction, NDA-owned land and operations would be transferred to Urenco under a long lease and services contract.
(World Nuclear News Oct. 29, 2010)
Depleted uranium hexafluoride cylinder found leaking at Sellafield Ltd Capenhurst site
Sellafield Limited - Capenhurst Works reported on 24 July 2009 the leakage of radioactive liquor from one of the uranium hexafluoride ("Hex Tails") cylinders, currently stored inside a building. The leak was discovered during routine plant surveillance. The hole in the leaking cylinder was promptly sealed by the site fire brigade.
There was no significant personal radiation exposure or contamination and no release to the environment of airborne radioactivity.
(HSE Office for Nuclear Regulation: Fourth quarter 2009 statement of nuclear incidents at nuclear installations)
BNG Capenhurst site nears end of its clean-up
Capenhurst's nuclear clean-up team has reached a key milestone as it completed the UK nuclear industry's biggest demolition project.
The site in south Wirral housed the UK's first uranium enrichment plant and is nearing the completion of its decommissioning programme.
It is scheduled to become the first UK nuclear site to complete its clean-up programme in 2009.
The decommissioning site is owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and managed and operated by clean-up contractor Sellafield Ltd.
The enrichment plant, which ceased operations in 1982, has been demolished clearing 32,000 m2 - equivalent to four football pitches - of valuable space for potential re-use.
In addition, 94% of the clean materials from the building have been recycled.
(The Liverpool Daily Post Feb. 25, 2008)
UK Environment Agency invites comment on review of radioactive waste authorisations for BNGSL Capenhurst site
The UK Environment Agency is reviewing the radioactive waste authorisations held by British Nuclear Group Sellafield Limited for part of the nuclear site at Capenhurst, near Chester and invites comments.
Responses are due by 7 February 2007.
> View Environment Agency release Dec. 2006
Sellafield Ltd fined £380,000 for safety breaches leading to worker contamination with plutonium
Sellafield Ltd has been fined £380,000 for safety breaches relating to equipment used for the processing of plutonium.
At a hearing on 2 April, Carlisle Crown Court heard how, on 5 February 2017, a worker at the West Cumbria plant received a puncture wound to one of his hands while working in a glovebox used to process radioactive materials.
The incident resulted in the worker receiving an intake of plutonium equal to approximately eight times the maximum legal annual exposure limit for workers in the nuclear industry.
An investigation by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) found that the worker was following his employer’s system of work while cleaning a probe used as part of an alarm system. This was a difficult operation and the contaminated probe, which had corroded and become sharp, punctured his hand through a protective glove.
Sellafield Ltd pleaded guilty to offences under Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (1974), and was fined and also ordered to pay costs of £96,753.22 by His Honour Judge Adkin.
(ONR Apr. 2, 2019)
> See older issues
Decommissioning contract awarded for Dessel MOX fuel fabrication plant
On March 4, 2009, Studsvik announced that it has been awarded a specialist consulting contract in the decommissioning of Belgonucléaire's fuel fabrication plant in Dessel, Belgium. The assignment, valued at EUR 1.8 million annually, will involve supervisors and two teams of operators and is expected to last for four years. Belgonucléaire aims to decommission the plant to release the buildings for other nuclear activities. The production area with glove boxes, remaining equipment and infrastructure are to be carefully and safely dismantled and packed into waste drums.
Belgonucléaire SA Dessel MOX fuel plant to close
The Belgonucléaire SA Dessel MOX fuel plant will cease production after July 31, 2006. By the end of October 2006, the plant should be empty and ready for dismantling. Decommissioning is expected to be completed by 2012 or 2013.
On Nov. 21, 2005, Belgonucléaire SA announced to close its Dessel MOX fuel plant in 2006. (La Libre Belgique, Nov. 22, 2005)
Information about French nuclear fuel cycle plants (Nuclear Safety Authority - ASN, in French)
ASN demands improvements with Orano's decommissioning and waste management strategy for fuel cycle facilities
France's nuclear regulator ASN has taken position on Orano's decommissioning and waste management strategy, covering several facilities at the La Hague reprocessing plant, the Eurodif Gaseous Diffusion plant (INB 93) and the conversion plant for reprocessed uranium (INB 105) at Tricastin. ASN is asking Orano for improvements in the following areas:
(ASN Mar. 14, 2022)
- the implementation of the dismantling and waste management strategy must be prioritized according to the risks (existing pollution or high mobilized source term),
- the implementation of the remediation strategy must be based on sufficient knowledge of the current state of the installations and, more particularly, of the civil engineering structures and the soil,
- the implementation of the RCD (Old waste recovery and conditioning operations) strategy must be better controlled and the mobilizable source term must be reduced as soon as possible,
- the management of complex projects must be improved by analyzing the causes of delays in priority projects and by examining the adequacy of the resources allocated to these projects.
> Download: Stratégie de démantelement et de gestion des déchets d'Orano , ASN, Mar. 14, 2022 (503kB - in French)
French Nuclear Safety Authority, in view of potential re-classification of reprocessed uranium as a waste, orders study for disposal of reprocessed uranium (!)
> View here
(now Orano, formerly Comurhex)
INB No. 105
> See also: operation issues
ASN invites comment on decommissioning of former conversion plant for reprocessed uranium at Pierrelatte
On Mar. 24, 2020, Nuclear Safety Authority ASN opened a three week comment period on the proposed decision document on the decommissioning of the former conversion plant for reprocessed uranium at Pierrelatte.
Submit comments by June 15, 2020 (Comment period extended in view of COVID-19 pandemic).
> View Projet de décision de l'ASN soumettant à son accord la réalisation d'opérations de démantèlement et fixant les prescriptions relatives au démantèlement de l'installation nucléaire de base nº 105 exploitée par Orano Cycle sur le site de Pierrelatte (ASN - in French)
ASN demands Orano for improvements with storage of uranium material after loss of containment at decommissioning uranium conversion plant for reprocessed uranium at Pierrelatte
By letter dated Jan. 17, 2019, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN informed Orano of the conclusions it had drawn from an unannounced inspection held in storage area 61 on December 14, 2018: "[...] for the barrels of uranium material, the confinement of materials is supposed to be provided by the overpack. However, the event declared on August 17, 2018 has shown that the overpack does not provide sufficient guarantees for containment."
ASN therefore asks Orano to present a technical solution assuring the confinement of the materials. "This must be implemented at the latest before the summer period and will have to take into account the problem of pressure increase due to the HF present in the barrels of uranium materials." ASN, moreover, asks Orano to improve the radiation monitoring and HF detection in the area, among others.
Loss of containment of two packages of radioactive material at Orano's decommissioning uranium conversion plant for reprocessed uranium at Pierrelatte
Orano Cycle declared to ASN on 8 August 2018 a significant event for the safety of the loss of containment of two packages of radioactive material stored in the uranium conversion plants (INB 105).
Located at the Tricastin site in Drôme, ORANO cycle uranium conversion plants are mainly engaged in the chemical conversion of uranium into the form of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) for enrichment. INB 105, shut down since 2008, has been used in particular to recycle uranium from reprocessing or from non-irradiated nuclear fuels. The packages concerned by the event come from this installation and are stored in a dedicated building. They consist of a metal drum, which is the first containment barrier, itself arranged in an overpack drum, which is the second containment barrier.
On July 23, and again on August 6, 2018, the operator noted the leakage of the containment barriers of two packages of radioactive material. Storage environment monitoring devices measured abnormal levels of radioactivity in both cases.
Due to the high temperatures in the storage in summer and the presence of hydrofluoric acid in gaseous form in the barrels of materials, the two packages were subject to a pressure increase which caused a loss of tightness of the barrel and a leak at the level of the cover of the overpack. Pending their repackaging, the two packages were placed in a rigid vacuum chamber to restore static and dynamic containment.
Investigations conducted by the operator since these events have shown that one of the two overpacks was not properly closed, which resulted in the dispersion of contamination outside the storage, confirmed by environmental monitoring of the site. In addition, the incorrect setting of alarms for monitoring beacons led to the late detection of events.
Due to the absence of intervention inside the storage at the time of these events, the latter did not have any consequence on the workers. Activity levels found outside of storage confirm the absence of consequences outside the site.
However, due to the dispersion of contamination outside the storage, considering that the overpack of the second package was not closed, which constitutes a non-compliance with the general rules of operation of the facility and given the late detection of these events, ASN has classified this event at level 1 of the INES (International Nuclear Event Scale) scale, which has eight levels.
(ASN Nov. 22, 2018)
Public Inquiry into decommissioning of AREVA NC uranium conversion plant for reprocessed uranium (INB 105), Pierrelatte
The plant was used to convert reprocessed uranium from the form of uranyl nitrate solution to uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) and uranium hexafluoride (UF6) for re-enrichment, or to uranium dioxide (UO2) for long-term storage. It ceased operations in December 2008.
> Submit comments by February 1, 2017.
> Download AREVA flyer (345k PDF - in French)
> Download related documents (La Drôme - in French)
INB No. 93
ASN invites comment on decommissioning of former Eurodif enrichment plant
On March 24, 2020, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN opened a three week comment period on the proposed decision document on the decommissioning of the former Eurodif gazeous diffusion uranium enrichment plant at the Tricastin site (Drôme).
Submit comments by June 15, 2020 (Comment period extended in view of COVID-19 pandemic).
> View: Projet de décision relative au démantèlement de l'usine George Besse, exploitée par la société Orano Cycle sur le site du Tricastin (ASN - in French)
Decommissioning authorized for former Eurodif enrichment plant: a 30-year project
The Orano group announced Monday (Feb. 17) that it has received authorization to dismantle the old Eurodif uranium enrichment plant at the Tricastin site (Drôme). These operations, authorized by a decree published in the Official Journal, will consist in deconstructing all of the industrial equipment. The decree specifies that they must be completed no later than December 31, 2051, a 30-year project.
In 2013-2016, the site was notably entitled to a "flushing" phase, in order to reduce the quantity of nuclear and chemical materials present.
(BFM TV Feb. 17, 2020)
> View: Decree of Feb. 5, 2020 in: Journal Officiel, Feb. 7, 2020 (in French)
ASN stumbles across dysfunctional treatment plant for contaminated groundwater at former Eurodif enrichment plant:
During an inspection held at the decommissioning EURODIF enrichment plant on Oct. 10, 2019, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN discovered that the treatment plant opened in March 2014 to clean alluvial groundwater contaminated with perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene was not functional due to clogging problems during most of the time. ASN demanded Orano to quickly work out solutions to assure the continuous operation of the treatment plant.
> Download: Inspection Report, Nov. 5, 2019 (PDF, ASN - in French)
During another inspection held on Aug. 24, 2020, ASN noted further deficiencies with the treatment plant:
> Download: Inspection Report, Aug. 24, 2020 (PDF, ASN - in French)
Groups file complaint over dysfunctional treatment plant for contaminated groundwater at former Eurodif enrichment plant:
On Sep. 29, 2020, the Sortir du nucléaire Network and the associations Frapna Drôme Nature Environnement, Stop Nucléaire Drôme-Ardèche, and Stop Tricastin filed complaint against Orano for violating the environmental act.
> View: Sortir du nucléaire release , Sep. 29, 2020 (in French)
ASN stumbles across waste storage mess at decommissioning EURODIF enrichment plant
During an inspection held at the decommissioning EURODIF enrichment plant on Dec. 13, 2017, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN discovered numerous violations in connection with the storage of wastes: in particular, wastes were found to be stored in various locations not assigned for this purpose. In a letter dated Jan. 11, 2018, ASN demands the company to rectify the situation within one month - indicating a certain sense of urgency.
> Download: Lettre de suite d'inspection, EURODIF Production - Usine Georges Besse 1 (INB nº 93), INSSN-LYO-2017-0463 , 11 janvier 2018 (263kB PDF - in French)
ASN denies permission for transport of cylinders partly filled with uranium hexafluoride within boundaries of decommissioning EURODIF enrichment plant
In a rare move, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN denied on Aug. 30, 2017, the authorization for the requested transport of cylinders partly filled with uranium hexafluoride within the premises of the former EURODIF enrichment plant. The denial is based on uncertainties regarding the safety of the partly filled cylinders in the event of a fire.
Violation of safety rules at decommissioning EURODIF enrichment plant
On Feb. 17, 2017, Areva announced that it had transfered the superversion of the safety alarms of the Eurodif plant to the central control room of the Tricastin site at the end 2016 without proper authorization.
On Feb. 20, 2017, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN, which had detected the violation during an inspection on Feb. 17, 2017, rated this incident Level 1 on the INES scale.
Iran finds way to get Eurodif, Rössing dividend despite sanctions, report
Iran has found a way to receive arrear dividends from European consortium Eurodif and the Namibia-based Rössing Uranium Ltd. which had been blocked due the country's nuclear program, ISNA reported on Wednesday (Jan. 25).
Iran's dividend in Eurodif has not been paid since 2006, however, the implementation of the nuclear deal in January 2016 paved the way for Iran to receive its share which is estimated to be around 54 million euros.
Meanwhile, Iran had a 15-percent share in Rössing in the 1970s. But, the country has not been successful in receiving its dividend yet.
(Teheran Times Jan. 25, 2017)
Public Inquiry into decommissioning of EURODIF enrichment plant (INB 93)
Submit comments by February 10, 2017.
> Download Areva information brochure (344k PDF - in French)
> Download related documents (La Drôme - in French)
ASN finds management of consignment of equipment at decommissioning Eurodif gaseous diffusion enrichment plant 'not satisfactory'
On Dec. 17, 2015, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) held an inspection at the decommissioning Eurodif gaseous diffusion enrichment plant.
"The conclusions of this inspection are not satisfactory. Regarding consignment activities and decommissioning of equipment, the inspectors noted that the operator does not comply with the organization described in its documentary repository. The inspectors also found that the operator does not carry out the technical control of this activity, required by article 2.5.3 of the order of February 7, 2012 setting the general rules relating to INBs. The operator must also formalize the validation by the general consignor of the step of defining the final states of equipment after consignment or de-registration. Finally, the operator must define a
program for the professionalization of general consignment officers."
(ASN Jan. 5, 2016) [emphasis added]
Failure to perform recurring function tests of radiation monitoring equipment at decommissioning Eurodif gaseous diffusion enrichment plant
During an inspection held on Oct. 22, 2015, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN found that certain radiation monitoring devices had not been submitted to recurring function tests.
The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale.
(ASN Nov. 2, 2015)
Violation of criticality rules at Areva Tricastin site
On Oct. 16, 2015, during reconditioning of waste containers held at the Areva Tricastin site since 1996, excessive contents of U-235 was found in two containers.
The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale.
(ASN Oct. 26, 2015)
"Rinsing" phase of decommissioning of Eurodif gaseous diffusion enrichment plant completed
Areva celebrated today at the Tricastin site in France the completion of the "rinsing" phase of the former gaseous diffusion enrichment facility, Eurodif, as part of its dismantling.
This step has significantly reduced the quantity of nuclear and chemical materials present within the facility to ensure the safety of the subsequent operations as part of its deconstruction.
The next step will be the completion of the clean-up of the gaseous diffusion equipment in 2016.
(Areva Oct. 15, 2015)
Violation of criticality rules at decommissioning EURODIF enrichment plant
Ashes resulting from the burning of oil containing traces of uranium were collected in bins with a capacity of 200 litres instead of the permitted 30 litres. Areva proposes to rate the event level 1 on the INES scale.
(Areva Sep. 15, 2015)
Anomaly with chlorine trifluoride at decommissioning EURODIF enrichment plant
On Sep. 24, 2014, a pressure rise occured in a crystallizer used to remove uranium hexafluoride from the cascade with the help of chlorine trifluoride (ClF3).
The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale.
(ASN Sep. 29, 2014)
Violation of criticality rules at decommissioning EURODIF enrichment plant
On July 29, 2014, humid air was incidentally introduced into a group of gaseous diffusion chambers being decommissioned. This could have presented a criticality risk and the risk of formation of hydrofluoric acid.
The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale.
(ASN Aug. 4, 2014)
Areva wants to use decommissioning funds of Eurodif enrichment plant for construction of nuclear power plant in the UK
Areva is in talks with the French government to release some funds set aside for dismantling its nuclear installations in France to help the company finance a new British nuclear reactor, French newspaper Les Echos reported.
State-owned Areva is taking a 10 percent stake in the consortium that will build the nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in southwest Britain.
Areva wants to ensure the British nuclear project will not impact its debt, which is rated BBB- by Standard and Poors, one notch above "junk" territory.
It will need 500 million pounds to finance its share of Hinkley Point, according to one source quoted by the newspaper.
A 2012 French parliamentary report showed it could cost Areva up to 7.1 billion euros to dismantle its nuclear installations, which include the La Hague nuclear fuel reprocessing plant and Eurodif, a uranium enrichment factory.
(Reuters Dec. 16, 2013)
Anomaly with chlorine trifluoride at decommissioning EURODIF enrichment plant
On Sep. 30, 2013, Eurodif declared an event involving chlorine trifluoride (ClF3). This corrosive and toxic substance is used to remove residual solid uranium hexafluoride (UF6) from the diffusion chambers of the enrichment plant. On Sep. 26, 2013, due to disregard of instructions, gazeous ClF3 inadvertently condensed to liquid form inside a diffusion chamber. The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale.
(ASN Oct. 4, 2013)
ASN finds conditions at gas washing plant of decommissioning EURODIF enrichment plant 'not satisfactory'
On Aug. 21, 2013, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) held an unannounced inspection at the decommissioning EURODIF enrichment plant.
"The conclusions of the inspection are not satisfactory. The inspectors noted that the retention of units 271, 272, 275 and 276 of the newly reconfigured gas washing plant is not compliant. So subject, the inspectors deplore the inadequacy of the safety analyzes carried out in preparation for the work and that the licensee did not inform ASN in advance of their completion. They also found insufficient monitoring of chemical characteristics of gas washing effluents and noted that certain defined requirements relating to the sub-criticality of these effluents had not been respected, which led to the declaration of an event significant relating to safety. Finally, the inspectors noted that the operator has implemented changes relating to the PRISME project while some are framed by the general operating rules (RGE) of PRISM that are not yet approved." (ASN Sep. 16, 2013) [emphasis added]
ASN finds radiation protection at decommissioning EURODIF enrichment plant 'unsatisfactory'
On Oct. 17, 2012, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) held an inspection at the decommissioning EURODIF enrichment plant.
"The findings of the inspection are found to be unsatisfactory. The six-monthly inspection frequency of surface contamination required by the general operating rules (RGE) of INB nº 93 is not respected for all premises. The content of radiation protection displays, specifying the need or no to wear a respiratory protection device, has not been justified. Moreover, the waste zoning of plants 110 and 140 did not take into account the contamination history of the premises concerned. [...]" (ASN Nov. 9, 2012) [emphasis added]
ASN finds conditions at effluent treatment plant of decommissioning EURODIF enrichment plant 'unsatisfactory'
On Sep. 14, 2012, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) held an unannounced inspection at the decommissioning EURODIF enrichment plant.
"It emerges from this inspection that the direct discharge of wastewater into the Gaffière is due to the absence of functional requalification of an effluent circuit after a maintenance operation on a valve a sump pump. In addition, the inspectors generally noted a lack of rigor in the monitoring of the T900 wastewater treatment plant. The inspectors noted in particular that checks carried out by the operator and by his service provider in charge of operating the station were failures: the service provider's rounds were not carried out for most of the month of August and the weekly rounds carried out by the operator did not lead to the implementation of corrective actions. This situation is unsatisfactory and requires improving the rigor of operation of these installations as well as the supervision of the service provider responsible for them." (ASN Oct. 4, 2012) [emphasis added]
Recycling rather than disposal of the contaminated steel resulting from dismantling of the Eurodif enrichment plant?
At the June 21, 2012, meeting of the Commission Locale d'Information auprès des Grands Équipements Énergétiques du Tricastin (CLIGEET), the representatives of the trade unions made the proposal that the 150,000 t of contaminated steel that will result from the dismantling of the Eurodif enrichment plant should not be disposed of, but cleaned and recycled.
Areva's current plan is to dispose of them in ANDRA's Centre de l'Aube underground nuclear waste disposal site, located at a distance of 600 km.
> Download presentation: Démantèlement Eurodif - Un enjeu de société : le recyclage , Représentants du Collège des organisations syndicales de salariés de la CLIGEET, CLIGEET AVIGNON 21 juin 2012
Anomaly with depleted UF6 cylinder at Eurodif enrichment plant
On July 1, 2012, an anomaly was detected while transfering depleted UF6 from a thin-walled storage cylinder to a transport cylinder: as the cylinder was heated to transform the contents to the gaseous form, the cylinder's mass showed an unexpected development, probably indicating that the contents rather had been transformed to the liquid form. The liquid UF6 is very volatile and the transformation to the liquid state involves a strong volume expansion. The process was aborted immediately.
The event was rated level 1 on the INES scale.
(Areva July 5, 2012; ASN July 9, 2012)
> View older issues
INB No. 65, 90
ASN terminates licenses for former COGEMA/SICN nuclear fuel fabrication plant at Veurey-Voroize
On May 18, 2020, Orano announced the administrative delicensing by the French Nuclear Safety Authority (Autorité de sûreté nucléaire - ASN) of two basic nuclear installations [BNIs] (Installations Nucléaires de Base - INB) on the Veurey-Voroize site, previously operated by a subsidiary of the group, the Société Industrielle de Combustible Nucléaire (SICN).
ASN lays injunction on Areva to complete decommissioning of former COGEMA/SICN nuclear fuel fabrication plant at Veurey-Voroize
> View/Download Décision n°2012-DC-0263 de l'ASN du 13 mars 2012 (ASN - in French)
Elevated uranium concentration found in groundwater at former COGEMA/SICN nuclear fuel fabrication plant at Veurey-Voroize
In a report released Sep. 24, 2008, Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN) discloses that uranium concentrations up to 430 micrograms per litre were found in groundwater on site at the former COGEMA/SICN nuclear fuel fabrication plant at Veurey-Voroize. During the monitoring period of three years, average levels decreased by a factor of more than three. A contaminant plume of uranium extends also beyond the site boundaries.
> Download Etat de la surveillance environnementale et bilan du marquage des nappes phréatiques et des cours deau autour des sites nucléaires et des entreposages anciens de déchets radioactifs, 15 septembre 2008 (3.1MB PDF - in French)
Decommissioning license issued for COGEMA/SICN nuclear fuel plant
On Feb. 15, 2006, decommssioning licenses were issued to Société industrielle de combustible nucléaire (SICN) for INB No. 65 (nuclear fuel fabrication) and INB No. 90 (fuel pellets fabrication) at Veurey-Voroize (Isère).
> View ASN release March 20, 2006 (in French)
Journal Officiel (JO) of Feb. 22, 2006:
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INB No. 32, 54
Dismantling of nuclear facilities at Cadarache MOX plant completed
Areva has completed clean-up and dismantling operations on the facilities belonging to the former MOX fuel fabrication plant in Cadarache (Bouches-du-Rhône). Around 60 emptied process areas have thus been able to handed back to the CEA, which is the operator of the nuclear site.
The operations which began in 2009, after 40 years of industrial service (1962-2003), concerned two basic nuclear installations, the "Plutonium Technology Workshops" (ATPu) and the "Chemical Purification Laboratory" (LPC). In total, more than 460 "glove boxes" (sealed enclosures for the handling of radioactive materials), 30 tanks and 4 km of pipework were disassembled, cut and then packaged and evacuated safely.
(Areva Mar. 7, 2017)
CEA cited for deficiencies at waste management and water treatment plants at Cadarache site
On July 5, 2016, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN demanded CEA to correct a number of deficiencies identified at the waste management and water treatment plants located at the Cadarache site.
(ASN July 11, 2016)
CEA cited for failure to implement safety measures demanded for decommissioning of Cadarache MOX plant
During an inspection in April 2012, the Nuclear Safety Authority ASN had identified "significant gaps" in the Commissariat à l'énergie atomique (CEA)'s supervision of AREVA NC, who performs the decommissioning of the Cadarache site. During another inspection in November 2012, ASN found that CEA had not followed the demands to fill those gaps.
Consequently, on Feb. 19, 2013, ASN cited CEA to implement the requested supervision before April 30, 2013.
(ASN Feb. 26, 2013)
> View older issues
INB No. 131
License terminated for FBFC Pierrelatte nuclear fuel plant
On May 15, 2003, the license for the FBFC Pierrelatte nuclear fuel plant was terminated. The plant had been in operation from 1983 - 1998 and has since been decommissioned.
(ASN May 16, 2003)
Incidents at FBFC Pierrelatte nuclear fuel fabrication plant
FBFC Pierrelatte events (ASN - in French)
Dismantling of Le Bouchet uranium processing facility starts
The old uranium processing facility of Le Bouchet (Essonne) near Paris, France, will be decommissioned within 18 months starting Nov. 5, 2001. Between 1949 and 1971, the plant produced more than 4000 tonnes of uranium metal (in particular for research reactors and graphite-moderated gas-cooled reactors). A first decontamination took place in 1971.
(Le Parisien, Oct. 29, 2001; Davis 1997)
Aerial view: Google Maps
Mysterious particles found in soil near the Hanau nuclear fuel plants
Spherical radioactive particles have been found in soil samples from the surroundings of the Hanau nuclear fuel plants, according to the TV program "Report Mainz". The particles with a diameter of approx. 1 mm were found at a depth of 15 cm and are reported to contain plutonium, enriched uranium, curium, and americium, among others. It is speculated that the particles stem from the production of fuel for the former high-temperature reactor of the Jülich nuclear research center. (AP May 5, 2002)
After the program was aired, "Report Mainz" admitted that the statements about the composition of the particles only referred to similar ones found near the GKSS nuclear research center in Geesthacht in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein. The Hanau particles only looked similar to those from Geesthacht under the electron microscope.
(Main Echo May 10, 2002)
Meanwhile it seems more likely that the particles are ordinary slag from coal-fired power plants or blast furnaces. Such slag often was used in the 1970s and 1980s to stabilize the subsoil in development areas. (Frankfurter Rundschau May 16, 2002)
According to an analysis done by the Marburg university, the particles do not contain nuclear fuel and are not more radioactive than normal soil. (Main Echo May 17, 2002)
On June 26, 2002, the Hanau public prosecutor's office suspended proceedings in this case. The radiation in the samples were at or below natural background levels and presented no hazard to the public. (Netzeitung June 26, 2002)
On Sep. 13, 2002, the Hesse State Ministry of Environment released an investigation report completely dismissing all claims made related to the particles. However, in 5 out of 34 soil samples, a slight enrichment (1.3 - 1.7%) of uranium-235 was found. Though the report has no explanation for this finding, it is of no radiological significance, since the average uranium-238 concentrations are less than 20 Bq/kg. This corresponds to a uranium concentration in soil of 1.6 ppm - a value typical for Germany and less than the average 3 ppm found in the earth's crust.
Bericht des Ministeriums für Umwelt, Landwirtschaft und Forsten zu den behaupteten Funden radioaktiver Stoffe (Kernbrennstoffkügelchen) in der Umgebung der Hanauer Nuklearbetriebe vom 04. September 2002 (135k PDF, in German)
Groundwater cleanup to continue at site of former Nukem Hanau nuclear fuel plant without foreseeable end
While cleanup efforts lead to reduction of uranium concentrations in groundwater below the 20 microgram per litre standard at most of the nuclear facility sites in Hanau, concentrations between 20 and 60 micrograms per litre are still found at the site of the former Nukem nuclear fuel plant. In addition, high concentrations of volatile halogenated hydrocarbons are found in the groundwater at this site. Groundwater treatment, which began in 2002, therefore has to be continued at this site - without an end being foreseeable yet.
(Frankfurter Rundschau Mar. 3, 2017)
Decommissioning of Nukem Hanau nuclear fuel plant approved
On Oct. 25, 2000, the Hesse State Government approved the decommissioning of the Nukem nuclear fuel production plant at Hanau. The plant is shut down since 1988. 28,000 tonnes of slightly contaminated rubble and soil are to be disposed of in the former underground rocksalt mine of Kochendorf near Heilbronn (Baden-Württemberg). 7000 casks of radioactive waste (containing 350 kg of residual uranium) are to be brought to a Nuclear Cargo und Service (NCS) storage site in Hanau for intermediate storage. (Frankfurter Rundschau Oct. 26, 2000)
The Hesse State Ministry of Environment has approved the transport of 7500 tonnes of low level radioactive waste from the decommissioning of the Hanau fuel plant for disposal in the Kochendorf rocksalt mine. The total activity of the material is limited to 21 GBq (corresponding to 2.8 Bq/g). (Main Echo May 17, 2001)
Hanau residual plutonium to be processed by COGEMA into MOX fuel
The unused plutonium-containing nuclear fuel still stored in Hanau will be processed in to MOX fuel for use in German nuclear power plants.
The plutonium storage bunker at Hanau still contains the unused nuclear fuel manufactured for the abandoned fast breeder reactors at the Karlsruhe nuclear research center and at Kalkar. The material contains up to 35% plutonium.
It is now planned to ship the material to France for processing into MOX fuel at La Hague and Marcoule. The MOX fuel produced will then be used in German nuclear power plants owned by RWE Power AG.
This procedure will cost approx. Euro 235 million and will allow for the final decommissioning of the former Hanau MOX fuel plant, where the material is being stored so far.
> View BMU release June 16, 2004 (in German)
> Download BMU background information (in German)
> View BfS release June 16, 2004 (in German)
State approves intermediate storage of Hanau MOX fuel plant decommissioning waste
On June 11, 2002, the Hesse State Minister of Environment approved the construction of an intermediate storage hall for nuclear waste from decommissioning of the Siemens nuclear fuel plant. The hall is licensed for the storage of up to 1200 casks, containing a total of up to 9000 cubic meters of waste. The waste material, mainly contaminated soil and rubble from demolished buildings, may contain a total of up to 95 kgs of plutonium and 9000 kgs of uranium. In the future, the material shall be transfered to the planned Schacht Konrad low-level radioactive waste deposit. (Main Echo June 12, 2002)
> View Hesse Env. Ministry release June 11, 2002 (in German)
Contaminated waste from old Hanau MOX plant transfered to Sweden for uranium recovery and disposal
> See here
Decommissioning of old Siemens Hanau MOX fuel plant approved
On May 30, 2001, the Hesse State Ministry of Environment (HMULF) issued a first part approval for the decommissioning of the old Siemens MOX fuel production plant at Hanau. Siemens now can start the dismantling of the plutonium-contaminated equipment. The resulting radioactive waste will be cemented in barrels. The barrels will be cemented in casks and provisionally stored in a storage building to be built on site by Nuclear Cargo Service (NCS).
The plant used to produce mixed oxide fuel elements from plutonium and uranium. The plant was closed in 1995. Since 1998, the plant operated in a clear out mode, producing more than 6000 storage rods from 642 kgs of plutonium and 13 tonnes of uranium. These rods are scheduled for reprocessing in France.
The complete dismantling of the plant is expected to last until 2005.
> View HMULF press release (May 30, 2001) (in German)
Never operated new Siemens MOX fuel plant in Hanau to become server farm
The building of the never operated new Siemens MOX fuel plant in Hanau has been taken over by internet service provider 1&1. The company plans to install up to 100,000 dedicated servers in the building. (AP Nov. 11, 2008)
Unused Hanau MOX fuel plant equipment to be sold to China?
On December 2, 2003, German Chancellor Schröder made public a request by China to purchase the equipment of Siemens' never operated Hanau MOX fuel plant. Siemens had filed a preliminary request for an export license in February 2003 already. The equipment has already been dismantled and packed in sea containers. It is, however, not clear for what purpose the equipment will be used, since China has no civilian plutonium stocks (as required for MOX fuel production). Therefore, fears are arising that the equipment (or at least components thereof) might be intended for use in China's military nuclear programme - precluding the issuance of an export license.
On April 27, 2004, the speaker of China's state department said that the talks on a purchase of the Hanau plant equipment have been discontinued. (dpa Apr. 27, 2004)
> See also:
> See also Lanzhou MOX fuel plant project (Gansu Province, China)
Dismantling of new Hanau MOX fuel plant has begun
The dismantling of Siemens' never operated Hanau MOX fuel plant has begun. A minor fraction of the equipment will be relocated to Japan, but the majority will be scrapped.
(Frankfurter Rundschau Apr. 6, 2002)
Dismantling of new Hanau MOX fuel plant to start in February 2002
On Feb. 2, 2002, Siemens announced that the dismantling of the never operated Hanau MOX fuel plant will start later the same month. (dpa-afx Feb 3, 2002)
No export of new Hanau MOX fuel plant to Russia
Siemens is no longer offering the new but never operated Hanau MOX fuel plant for export to Russia. Financial commitments made to the company (from the US and France) were only DM 500 million (US$ 234 million), while the export cost is estimated at DM 2 billion (US$ 935 million). Siemens is now trying to sell the plant in parts, otherwise it will be scrapped. The original cost of the plant was DM 1.2 billion (US$ 561 million). It was completed in 1991.
(Frankfurter Rundschau, Süddeutsche Zeitung Aug. 18, 2001)
German government not pleased about possible export of new Hanau MOX fuel plant to Russia
The German government sees only little chance to prevent the proposed export of the never operated new Siemens MOX fuel plant at Hanau to Russia. In Russia, the plant would be used to produce MOX fuel from excess weapons' plutonium. But, with the capacity of the plant being higher than Russia's needs, the German government fears a further push for nuclear, while it has just made a decision for a nuclear phase-out in Germany (Frankfurter Rundschau Aug. 28, 2000)
Complete site of former Siemens nuclear fuel production plant in Hanau released for general use; groundwater restoration continuing
On May 3, 2006, the Hesse State Ministry of Environment released the complete site of the former RBU nuclear fuel plant for general use. The buildings remaining on site can be used without restrictions. The site reclamation goal for groundwater has not been attained yet, however. Further treatment of groundwater is therefore required.
(HMULV May 3, 2006)
First section of decommissioned former RBU Hanau nuclear fuel plant site released for general use
A first 1000 m2 tract of the 32,000 m2 former RBU nuclear fuel plant in Hanau was released for general use. After demolition of the buildings and replacement of the soil, the tract now is suitable for industrial development and housing. The decommissioning of the whole RBU plant shall be completed by mid-2004.
(Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Aug. 5, 2003)
On November 20, 2001, a 50-kilogram bomb was defused at the premises of the former Siemens nuclear fuel plant in Hanau. The bomb had been dropped by the US Air Force in World-War-II. It had not been detected during surveys performed before the construction of the plant. It was found only now during the decommissioning of the plant. (Frankfurter Rundschau Nov. 21, 2001)
A former worker at the Hanau nuclear fuel plant sues Siemens AG for payment of a compensation of DM 3 million (US$ 1.4 million) for having contracted a lung fibrosis during work. Michael Weber used to work in 1971 as a contract worker at the Reaktor-Brennelemente-Gesellschaft (RBG) nuclear fuel production plant in Hanau, Germany. Siemens AG is the legal successor of the owner of the meanwhile closed plant. During an accident, Weber was completely covered with UO2 dust and he inhaled the dust. In 1981, he developed a lung fibrosis, decreasing his lung function by 85% and leaving him permanently disabled since. An expert of nuclear medicine had confirmed that the disease is caused from radiation, and the employers' liability insurance had acknowledged the lung fibrosis as work-related. Siemens dismisses all claims. (Frankfurter Rundschau May 23, 2000)
On May 24, 2000, Weber rejected a proposal for a settlement, made by the judge and accepted by Siemens: Siemens would have paid Weber's proceedings cost of DM 60,000 (US$ 28,000), but would not have acknowledged any liability. In the opinion of the judge, it is very likely that Weber's claims come under the statute of limitations. (Frankfurter Rundschau May 25, 2000)
On July 26, 2000, the Nüremberg Superior Court (Landgericht) dismissed the suit for formal reasons.
On September 4, 2000, Weber lodged an appeal to the Nüremberg Court of Appeal (Oberlandesgericht).
On March 8, 2001, Weber accepted the above settlement, since he was not in the financial position to continue the appeals court case.
Michael Weber died on September 17, 2003.
> See also Michael Weber's homepage [in German]
Norway to eliminate HEU stockpile by downblending:
The U.S. Department of Energy and Norway's Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Fisheries today (Sep. 1) signed a memorandum of understanding to advance a cooperative project to eliminate all of Norway's highly enriched uranium (HEU) by downblending it to low-enriched uranium -- a shared nonproliferation goal.
During downblending, HEU is thoroughly mixed with depleted or natural uranium to reduce the uranium-235 concentration below 20%. The resulting low-enriched uranium cannot be used to make an improvised nuclear device, achieving permanent threat reduction. The challenge has been that much of Norway's remaining HEU is mixed with thorium, making other disposition techniques more challenging.
The memorandum of understanding, signed by Secretary Granholm and her Norwegian counterpart, Minister of Trade and Industry Iselin Nybø, calls for small-scale downblending activities to begin in 2022 using Norway's existing infrastructure. It also paves the way for the eventual deployment of the Department's Mobile Melt-Consolidate system, which will complete the job.
(U.S. DOE NNSA Sep. 1, 2021)
> See also: Uranium Downblending
The Kirovo-Chepetsk Chemical Combine was built in the 1940s to produce uranium fluorides and it operated until the 1990s. The former uranium fluorides processing building has a volume of 102,000 cubic metres. Tailings and radioactive waste burial sites contain approximately 440,000 tonnes of radioactive waste with a total activity of 3,400 Ci (125.8 TBq).
Decommissioning work - including "conservation and protection of radioactive waste storages and tailings", among others - is scheduled for the period 2012 to 2025.
(Main principles of the organization of decommissioning activities for legacy sites, Annex 3: Experience of FSUE "RosRAO", by S.V. Mikheykin, in: Planning, Management and Organizational Aspects of the Decommissioning of Nuclear Facilities, IAEA-TECDOC-1702, Vienna August 2013, p.144-146)