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

(last updated 4 Nov 2020)

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SOUTH AMERICA

Argentina · Brazil

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General

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Pilcaniyeu enrichment plant, Río Negro

Argentina to restart Pilcaniyeu enrichment plant

In five weeks, the Pilcaniyeu plant will resume production of enriched uranium, Argentine Planning Minister Julio de Vido said at a Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting in Buenos Aires. The reopening of the Pilcaniyeu Technological Complex, located some 1,600 kilometers southwest of Buenos Aires and managed by the National Atomic Energy Commission , has required an investment outlay of 27 million dollars. Argentina produced uranium on an experimental scale at Pilcaniyeu in the 1980s, when the country developed an enrichment method, but it later halted production at the plant. With the reopening of the plant, Argentina will be producing that nuclear fuel component on an industrial scale for the first time. (MercoPress June 26, 2014)

Argentina resumes uranium enrichment at Pilcaniyeu

On Oct. 25, 2010, president Cristina Kirchner re-inaugurated the Pilcaniyeu uranium enrichment plant in Río Negro Province. First samples of enriched uranium will be obtained in September 2011. The plant had already been in operation in 1982/1983 but was halted for various reasons. (Clarín Oct. 26, 2010)

 

Dioxitek S.A. UO2 plant, Córdoba

Dioxitek nuclear fuel plant in Córdoba resumes operation

After 32 months of paralysis by a closure arranged by the Municipality of Córdoba, the uranium dioxide factory that the company Dioxitek owns in Alta Córdoba resumed its production. This was confirmed by the Federal Justice and the municipality.
The municipal authorization was signed last July 17, and operations started immediately. The plant obtained the authorization of the Justice and the municipal authorization, in exchange for committing its closure at the end of 2018. (La Voz Aug. 9, 2017)

Closed Dioxitek nuclear fuel plant in Córdoba to resume operation until replacement plant in Formosa is completed

The Municipality of Córdoba and the company Dioxitek reached an agreement in the Federal Justice allowing the production of uranium dioxide to be resumed at the Alta Córdoba plant for two more years. (La Voz Jan. 11, 2017)

Waste from closed Dioxitek UO2 plant in Córdoba to be dumped on former Los Gigantes uranium mine site

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Dioxitek UO2 plant in Córdoba to be closed for good

After a long-standing demand of environmentalists and neighbors, it was expected in the Municipality of Córdoba yesterday that Dioxitek presents a note announcing the stoppage at the uranium processing plant in Alta Córdoba. Many residents were alarmed by the explosion on Thursday (Nov. 6) a few blocks away. The processing of nuclear fuel is essential for the operation of nuclear power plants, but production is unviable in the middle of a city.
At the site there is a place that employees and neighbors called "el bochón" where a lot of toxic waste was buried. Remediation is expected to involve the transport of more than 40 trucks, which would have to pass through populated area.
Anyway, with or without notice, the city will close the plant on Monday (Nov. 10), as indicated within the last extension of the operating license, which expires today. This was confirmed to La Voz by the Interior Secretary, Control and Coexistence, José Fernández, who said that this is a final measure. He said that this determination is not related to the explosion of the tank. (La Voz Nov. 8, 2014)

Protests in Río Tercero against proposed relocation of Dioxitek UO2 plant from Córdoba

A thousand people rallied late on Friday (May 31) in a march through downtown streets of the city Río Tercero, against the possible establishment of the state-owned company Dioxitek. (La Voz June 1, 2013)

CNEA considers relocation of Dioxitek UO2 plant from Córdoba to Río Tercero

The state company Dioxitek submitted to the municipality of Río Tercero a prefeasibility land use order to move its uranium dioxide processing plant to the site of the Military Factory in this city.
Dioxitek began operating in 1982 in Alta Córdoba district, the provincial capital. After a long series of conflicts for its location in the urban area, the company agreed with Cordoba town last November to relocate within 18 months. According to reports, the alternative being considered is also a property of Military Industries, in the place of José Quintana (between Despeñaderos and Alta Gracia). (La Voz May 15, 2013)

CNEA denies plan to relocate Dioxitek UO2 plant to Sierra Pintada (Mendoza)

The National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) informed that it has no plans to relocate the Dioxitek plant that is located in Córdoba, nor the area called "El Chichón", to the San Rafael uranium mine complex in Mendoza. (Los Andes Nov. 11, 2012)

Dioxitek considers doubling of nuclear fuel production capacity

The chairman of Dioxitek S.A., Santiago Morazzo, announced that he is studying the construction of a new plant that will double its production to 300 tonnes per year, and it will be located outside the urban area of Córdoba. (Clarín Aug. 1, 2007)

Environment defense foundation (FUNAM) denounces the environmental situation at the Dioxitek S.A. uranium dioxide plant in Córdoba

On July 25, the Environment defense foundation (FUNAM) denounced the environmental situation at the Dioxitek S.A. uranium dioxide plant in Córdoba, where more than 36,000 tonnes of radioactive waste are stored on-site without proper protective measures. FUNAM requested that the CNEA remedies the site immediately and the Municipality closes the plant of Dioxitek S.A..

 

Centro Atómico Ezeiza (CEA)

Well water near Ezeiza nuclear center contaminated with uranium and other toxic substances

The well water that is being used by thousands of inhabitants of Ezeiza, Esteban Echeverría and La Matanza is contaminated with uranium and other toxic substances originating from the Centro Atómico Ezeiza (CAE). This was revealed in a report prepared by geologist Fernando Diaz of the University of Buenos Aires.
74% of the wells sampled (36 out of 46) showed concentrations of uranium and nitrate in excess of WHO's preliminary drinking water guideline values (15 micrograms per litre, and 50 milligrams per litre, respectively). 1,618,069 people are living in the three localities affected. Nearly 47% of them (760,000) are not connected to the potable water network and are therefor using well water. (Los Andes, March 19, 2005)
CNEA maintains that the uranium concentrations found (up to 56 g/L) do not exceed the Argentinian standard of 100 (!) g/L. (El Santacruzeño March 22, 2005)

A study performed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of the Buenos Aires Province Secretariat of Environmental Policy (SPA) found that the uranium concentration in 10 of 51 samples taken exceeds 20 micrograms per liter, which is the limit established by the Province. The average concentration in those wells was 26 micrograms, reaching almost 35 micrograms per liter in one case. (Clarín Nov. 12, 2005)
> View details (SPA - in Spanish)
The Argentinian nuclear regulatory authority (ARN ) maintains that (a) the uranium detected was natural rather than enriched uranium, (b) the concentrations found are within the range of values naturally found in the area, (c) the Argentinian standard of 100 g U/L is appropriate for radiation protection - ignoring the fact that the WHO provisional guideline of 15 g/L was established for the chemical toxicity of uranium.

> See also Greenpeace Argentina (in Spanish)

After reiterated complaints, the Buenos Aires Province Secretariat of Environmental Policy is planning to investigate if "genetic mutations" exist in residents living near the Centro Atómico Ezeiza. (Diario Uno de Mendoza June 26, 2006)

The Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ARN), through its director Raúl Racana, maintained that the waters of the Buenos Aires agglomeration neighbouring the Nuclear center of Ezeiza, are not contaminated. He assured that there "exists total security for the population" of Ezeiza and the environs.
The position of the ARN was set out to Clarín as a result of a special report published Sunday 19 of July, where it was revealed that the investigation on the possible contamination of the Puelche aquifer with uranium takes up to 9 years of delay. According to a report ordered by the judge of the cause, the aquifers would have received uranium residues of the Nuclear center, becoming a serious risk for approximately one million inhabitants of Ezeiza, Esteban Echeverría and La Matanza. (Clarín July 30, 2009)


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General

Brazil in negotiations on export of enriched uranium to China, South Korea, and France

The Brazilian government is already in negotiations on the sale of fuel for nuclear plants in China, South Korea, and France. However, no official decision has been made yet on the uranium enrichment for export purposes. (O Estado Feb. 7, 2011)

 

Resende enrichment and nuclear fuel plant, Rio de Janeiro

Resende nuclear fuel plant sends wastes to cement factory

A large part of the waste produced by INB at the Nuclear Fuel Plant (FCN) - Pastilhas, in Resende/RJ, has been destined for the manufacture of cement through the hiring of the company Haztec Tecnologia e Planejamento Ambiental S/A, specialized in rendering services of collection, transport and final destination of waste.
Since the first destination, INB has shipped approximately 550 tons of residues of Ammonium Sulfate (NH4)2SO4, Ammonium Fluoride NH4F and Ammonium Carbonate (NH4)2CO3. The material is treated by thermal destruction of chemical residues, without generating environmental liabilities, by the coprocessing technique by burning in a cement production oven at the company Votorantim Cimentos S/A, in Magé/RJ, until the final environmentally appropriate disposal. (INB Aug. 17, 2020)

Resende uranium enrichment plant increases capacity with opening of eighth cascade

The Nuclear Industries of Brazil - INB inaugurates this Friday, November 29, at 3 pm, the 8th ultracentrifuge cascade, at the Nuclear Fuel Factory (FCN), in Resende / RJ.
With the start of the 8th cascade, INB will increase the production of enriched uranium by 20% in the country, being able to produce 60% of what is needed to supply the Angra 1 Nuclear Power Plant. (INB Nov. 25, 2019)

Nuclear fuel convoy attacked by armed men

Drug traffickers armed with rifles attacked a convoy of vehicles carrying a cargo of uranium from Resende to the Nuclear Power Plant in Angra dos Reis late Tuesday morning [Mar. 19]. The information is from the Federal Highway Police. The attack happened near Frade, on the Rio-Santos Highway. Patrolmen of the Federal Highway Police who escorted the vehicles reacted and there was an intense exchange of shots. There is no news of arrests and injuries. (O Globo Mar. 19, 2019)

Resende uranium enrichment plant increases capacity with opening of seventh cascade

Brazil today raised its capacity to enrich uranium with the inauguration of a new cascade of ultracentrifuges, although its goals of achieving self-sufficiency and dominating the entire cycle of nuclear energy production depend on that the next Government resume the investments in the project.
The government's forecast is to conclude the first phase of the project in 2019 with the operation of ten ultra-centrifugal cascades, with which it would be able to meet nearly 70% of the demand for enriched uranium from Angra I.
The second phase of the project, which would last until 2033, foresees the installation of another 30 ultracentrifuge towers, which would give the INB the capacity to supply 100% of the enriched uranium demanded by the Angra I, Angra II nuclear power plants and Angra III, the latter under construction. (Invertia Aug. 30, 2018)

Brazil announces first export of enriched uranium

The Nuclear Industries of Brazil will export for the first time enriched uranium. The contract signed with the Argentine state company Combustibles Nuclear Argentinos S.A. - Conuar provides for the export of four tons of uranium dioxide powder (UO2) for use in the initial fuel charge of the Argentine modular reactor Carem.
The total to be exported is divided into three batches with different enrichment levels of 1.9%, 2.6% and 3.1%. The contract was signed with Argentina 15 days ago, and now INB is awaiting authorization from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to carry out the exports.
Currently, the INB Enrichment Plant has six centrifuge cascades in operation, serving about 40% of the needs of Angra 1. Upon completion of the first plant implementation phase, with the construction and start-up of three cascades, 100% of the enriched uranium needs of the Angra 1 plant and 20% of Angra 2 will be met. (INB June 20, 2016)

Resende nuclear fuel plant receives operating license

IBAMA issued the Operating License No. 1174/2013 for the three units of the nuclear fuel factory (FCN) of the Nuclear Industries of Brazil (INB), located in Engenheiro Passos, district of Resende/RJ.
The Nuclear Fuel Factory INB/Resende is responsible for the enrichment of the uranium (FCN III), Conversion and Production of Uranium Dioxide Tablets (FCN II) and for the production of components and the assembly (FCN I) of fuel elements that are used by nuclear plants Angra I and Angra II. (IBAMA Nov. 5, 2013)

Three unreported spills - due to "imperfections" in the equipment - reveiled at Resende enrichment plant

According to internal email communications, three incidents at the Resende enrichment plant have not been reported to the authorities. One of them was a release of UO2 dust on July 14, 2009, that was contained within the facility. The other events were chemical releases. Director of Nuclear Fuel Production of the FCN, Samuel Fayad Filho said, he recognizes "imperfections" in the equipment and says that "all measures had been taken" in relation to the detected problems. (Correio Braziliense Oct. 19, 2011)

Brazil to boost uranium enrichment capacity at Resende

Brazil's uranium enrichment capacity will be expanded to an industrial scale this year to meet the needs of the country's current nuclear power program, state-owned nuclear development company Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil, or INB, said Tuesday (Jan. 18). INB is investing $700 million on converters and centrifuges that will be installed in coming weeks at its uranium enrichment plant at Resende, Rio de Janeiro state, in southeast Brazil, said INB director Samuel Fayad Filho at a nuclear energy seminar in Rio de Janeiro. (Dow Jones Newswires Jan. 18, 2011)

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AFRICA

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Russia and South Africa eye cooperation in conversion and enrichment of uranium

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