Current Issues: New Uranium Conversion/Enrichment and Nuclear Fuel Plant Projects - Europe
(last updated 10 Jan 2024)
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Euratom favours domestic HALEU production for EU's research reactors, in spite of poor economics:
Rather than having to rely on supplies from the U.S. and Russia, a Euratom working group recommends to establish a European production capability for high assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU: > 5 and < 20 weight-% U-235):
"[...] the market for a European Union HALEU production for research reactors serving basic research, materials research, nuclear physics and life sciences beyond 2035 has the following perspectives:
The European nuclear fuel cycle industry -- notably Urenco and ORANO -- is world leading in enrichment technology for civil uses and enrichment up to 6% (and up to 10% by 2025). This same technology can be used to produce HALEU (19.75%) without major technical challenges. For reasons of safety (criticality) and security this should be done in a separate and dedicated facility. The final product would be UF6, which then has to be chemically converted to metallic U either on the same site or on a different site.
- High confidence : Europe + Opal [Australia] = 800 kg/y
- Relevant market opportunities : Europe + OPAL [Australia] + others = 1200 kg/y
Conversion to uranium metal on an industrial scale has been suspended in Western Europe more than 10 years ago. Yet the industrial knowledge is still present, but risks to vanish in the near future.
Assuming a maximum price of 20,000 EUR per kg of HALEU, which may still be compatible with funding which is typically available to research reactors, and annual quantities as summarized above, both companies clearly state not to be able to finance the necessary investment and to maintain production within a commercially viable scenario. It is estimated that a guaranteed demand of 3 to 8 t/year is necessary for a European Union HALEU production facility to be commercially viable." [emphasis added]
> Download: Securing the European Supply of 19.75% Enriched Uranium Fuel -- PROPOSED OPTIONS , Euratom Supply Agency (ESA), May 2022 (624kB PDF - released Aug. 2022)
After encountering first opposition, company abstains from plan to build nuclear fuel plant in Světlá nad Sázavou:
After withdrawing from Bystřice nad Pernštejnem, the company UJP Praha today also decided to leave the town Světlá. It does not want to promote their project where people are against it from the beginning. Residents had already begun to organize petitions and to protest loudly.
(ČT24 Feb. 17, 2015)
UJP Praha is now looking for another location to build the plant.
(iDNES Feb. 18, 2015)
After defeat in local referendum at Bystřice nad Pernštejnem, nuclear fuel plant project now moves on to Světlá nad Sázavou:
The company UJP Praha, which is the successor of the former Institute of Nuclear Fuels, expressed interest in eight hectares of land in the industrial zone in Světlá nad Sázavou.
By 2020, it wants to build there a plant that would produce fuel assemblies for nuclear power plants.
(denik.cz Feb. 6, 2015)
[This is developing into a classic example of nuclear plant siting: Bystřice nad Pernštejnem apparently was chosen, because the only operating uranium mine in the country (Rožná) is nearby, so the people of the area are used to processing of uranium in their neighbourhood. Moreover, the ore deposit is almost depleted, so new employment opportunities are welcome. After the people of Bystřice nevertheless rejected the new plant in a referendum, the company searched for a victim in distress and found it in the town of Světlá nad Sázavou. This town had laid out an industrial estate, but failed to attract enterprises to settle there. The town thus is obliged to return the CZK 30 million (US$ 1.23 million) grant obtained from the Ministry of Finance for the development of the site, ...unless it finds an investor such as UJP Praha.]
Opposition to the project: Bystřice bez radiace
Bystřice nad Pernštejnem nuclear fuel plant project turned down in local referendum:
80% of the voters in a local referendum on the nuclear fuel plant project at Bystřice nad Pernštejnem voted against the project. 52% of the eligible voters participated in the referendum, thus meeting the 35% quorum. The vote against the project is legally binding.
(iDNES.cz Oct. 11, 2014)
Local referendum to be held on nuclear fuel plant project proposed at Bystřice nad Pernštejnem:
The City Hall of Bystřice has announced that a local referendum on UJP's nuclear fuel plant project will be held in autumn.
(iDNES.cz June 20, 2014)
Local councilors reject sale of land for nuclear fuel plant project at Bystřice nad Pernštejnem:
Local councilors last week rejected the sale of the land on which the company conducting business in the nuclear sector wanted to build its new plant.
(5plus2.cz March 28, 2014)
Company presents proposal for nuclear fuel manufacturing and depleted uranium metal processing plant project at Bystřice nad Pernštejnem:
The company UJP PRAHA a.s. proposes to construct a nuclear fuel manufacturing and depleted uranium metal processing plant at Bystřice nad Pernštejnem.
> Download Project proposal , Dec. 9, 2013 (905k PDF - in Czech)
TVEL wants to build nuclear fuel plant in the Czech Republic:
The Russian company TVEL wants to build a nuclear fuel fabrication plant in the Czech Republic. TVEL is part of the state holding company Rosatom.
(CT24 Oct. 13, 2009)
In view of Ukraine war, EDF considers construction of new conversion plant for reprocessed uranium:
[To become independent of Russia as the sole supplier of conversion services for reprocessed uranium (URT)] the group [utility EDF] already claims to be "working" with Orano and Westinghouse to build a URT conversion plant on the Old Continent, which "will take around ten years", according to a spokesperson.
For its part, Orano is cautious. Because such a program does not seem to be part of its plans. Proof of this: its vast project to extend the uranium enrichment plant in Tricastin eludes the question, since it does not provide for modules to recycle the URT. "We will be available if needed, but you need a clear request to launch such an investment," explains the company to La Tribune.
(La Tribune Mar. 13, 2023)
[Areva's former conversion plant for reprocessed uranium at Pierrelatte ceased operations in December 2008, see here]
Orano opens research center for MOX fuel made from plutonium and depleted uranium at Bessines:
Developing processes to produce electricity in nuclear power plants with recycled ores or even recycle electric vehicle batteries... These are the two pilot projects on which dozens of engineers and technicians will work on the Orano site in Bessines-sur-Gartempe.
It is in the CIME (Center for Innovation in Extractive Metallurgy) that the tests will be carried out. The building, which received financial support from the Nouvelle Aquitaine region and the State as part of the France Relance plan, has just been inaugurated in the northern town of Haute-Vienne.
The first industrial pilot project is called Mox 2. It will consist in finding a process mixing plutonium with depleted uranium to produce electricity in nuclear power plants and lead to a multi-recycling which would allow the future to reduce uranium mining. "Today 10% of nuclear electricity is made with recycled materials, and with this project we would like to increase the recycling rate to 30%, that is to say 30% thanks to processes developed in Limousin" explains Philippe Knoche, the managing director of Orano.
(France Bleu Sep. 16, 2021)
(programme Silva – Séparation Isotopique par Laser de la Vapeur Atomique)
CEA terminates laser-based uranium enrichment research
France's Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique (CEA) has completed its research on laser-based uranium enrichment (SILVA programme). The research had been performed from the mid-1980's, co-financed by COGEMA from 1993 to 2002. From 2000 to 2003, an Euro 146 million feasibility study has been performed at Pierrelatte. During this study, some 200 kilograms of enriched uranium (and about one tonne of depleted uranium) have been produced in November 2003.
After COGEMA has made a decision to replace its Eurodif gaseous diffusion plant by centrifuge technology, the SILVA programme will be discontinued.
(CEA January 9, 2004)
France to abandon development of atomic vapour laser enrichment technology
Development of the Silva atomic vapour laser isotope separation process will cease by 2003, the Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique (CEA) announced. Instead, the CEA will resume R&D work on gas centrifuge enrichment technology that was suspended in 1983, when research efforts were focussed on laser enrichment technology. CEA Administrator General Pascal Colombani said that Silva proved 'difficult to implement and had an uncertain commercial future'. (UI News Briefing 01.07, Feb. 14, 2001)
The Russian state corporation TVEL is interested in building a nuclear fuel production plant in Slovakia.
(Hospodárske noviny Mar. 3, 2009)
China ready to participate in building nuclear fuel manufacturing facilities in Ukraine:
China is ready to participate in the construction of facilities for nuclear fuel production in Ukraine, the press service of the Energy and Coal Industry Ministry of Ukraine reported following the talks within the framework of the One Belt, One Road forum in Beijing.
"China has expressed interest in the joint implementation of the investment project based at the mine, which is being constructed at the Novokostiantynivske uranium ore deposit, and is ready to take part in the construction of production facilities in Ukraine to manufacture fuel assemblies for Ukrainian nuclear power plants," the press service said.
(Interfax May 15, 2017)
Westinghouse to build nuclear fuel plant in Ukraine
Ukraine said today it had reached an agreement with the US-based electric giant Westinghouse to build a nuclear fuel production unit that would help reduce its reliance on Russia.
Energy Minister Igor Nasalyk told reporters that his June visit to the United States had produced an agreement for Westinghouse's Swedish nuclear production factory to build its own plant in Ukraine at an undisclosed future date.
(Business Standard Aug. 4, 2016)
Ukraine mulls cooperation with ConverDyn for construction of conversion plant project
A private U.S. nuclear energy company could begin helping Ukraine in the production of enriched uranium, the fuel in nuclear power plants, according to a statement on Thursday (July 2) from Kiev's nuclear authority, Yadernoye Toplivo. The meeting, which took place on June 23 in Kiev between ConverDyn and Ukrainian officials, is another indication of Kiev's attempts to diversify its future energy needs and distance itself from Russian-produced energy, reports pro-Ukrainian news website UNIAN.
"At present, ConverDyn is interested in cooperation with Ukrainian companies in the field of uranium conversion services for Ukraine’s nuclear energy industry," the official statement reads. "During the meeting, the parties discussed the potential possibility of jointly building the uranium hexafluoride production facilities in Ukraine."
(International Business Times July 3, 2015)
Ukraine to renounce Ukrainian-Russian nuclear fuel plant project:
Ukraine plans renouncing a joint project with Russia, under which the two countries were to build a factory for the production of nuclear fuel, the Minister of Energy and Coalmining, Vladimir Demchishin told TASS on Wednesday (Apr. 29).
Under the initial plans, the factory was to be built in the township of Smolino, Ukraine's central Kirovograd region.
(Tass Apr. 29, 2015)
Russian-Ukrainian joint venture starts construction of nuclear fuel plant in Ukraine:
Ukraine and Russia have begun building a nuclear fuel plant in Smolyne, Kirovohrad region.
Nuclear Fuel state concern will be realising the plant construction project.
A joint Ukrainian-Russian venture Nuclear Fuel Plant CJSC, founded by Nuclear Fuel SC and TVEL OJSC (Russia) will be dealing with further realisation of the project and adoption of technologies.
The construction is divided into two phases.
The first phase (2012-2015) supposes fabrication of fuel rods, fuel assemblies, zirconia component parts of delivered roll stock, stainless component parts, and creation of corresponding infrastructure at the factory.
The second phase (2016-2020) supposes fabrication of uranium dioxide powder, fuel pellets, and creation of corresponding infrastructure at the factory.
(Ukrainian News Agency Oct. 4, 2012)
Russian-Ukrainian joint venture's nuclear fuel plant to cost US$ 350 million:
Russian nuclear fuel producer TVEL estimates the construction cost for the planned Ukrainian nuclear fuel plant at US$ 300 - 350 million. Russia will provide 60% of the investment sum. The plant is to produce fuel for the Russian WWER-1000 pressurized water reactor line and is to start operation in 2014.
(RIA Novosti Oct. 5, 2011)
Ukraine to build nuclear fuel plant in Zhovti Vody, Dnipropetrovsk Region:
Ukraine has an intention of building a plant for production of nuclear fuel in the town of Zhovti Vody, Dnipropetrovsk region, Fuel and Energy Minister Yurii Boiko has announced in Kyiv.
(Ukrainian News Agency Dec. 7, 2010)
Russia's TVEL and Ukraine's Nuclear Fuel agree to create Joint Venture for producing nuclear fuel in Ukraine:
The TVEL company (Russia) and the Nuclear Fuel state concern (Ukraine) have reached agreement on creation of a 50/50 joint venture in Ukraine for production of nuclear fuel for reactors of the type VVER-1000, which are based on Russian technology.
TVEL announced this in an official press release.
According to the agreement, the joint venture will have a capacity of 400 tons of uranium per year, and it may begin operation in 2012 if the Ukrainian side quickly selects and approves the site for location of the joint venture and approves the feasibility studies for it.
The press release states that the two companies will soon agree and sign a plan of measures for implementation of the project and secure approval of the plan by the nuclear agencies of the two countries and begin registering the joint venture.
The agreement also stresses that it is important for Ukraine to timely obtain the licenses and permits for construction, qualification, and operation of the joint venture.
In addition, TVEL affirmed its intention to transfer all the technologies for production of nuclear fuel not later than the year 2020, provide technological support for the operations of the joint venture, train the joint venture's personnel, etc.
TVEL will also ensure that the Ukrainian side has access to part of the funds necessary for financing the project, and it affirmed its readiness to supply all missing components for nuclear fuel and facilitate uranium-enrichment operations.
The agreement also stressed the possibility of supply of the joint venture's products to the markets of third countries in the future.
(Ukrainian News Agency Oct. 27, 2010)
The Ukrainian government has declared Russian TVEL corporation the winner of a tender to build a nuclear fuel plant in Ukraine.
According to the tender's terms, Ukraine hopes to have a controlling stake in the future company and insists on receiving the technology for nuclear fuel production by 2020.
The new enterprise is slated to begin operation in 2013. By that time the plant will be able to produce fuel rods and assemblies totaling 200 tonnes of uranium equivalent a year. In 2017 capacity to manufacture fuel pellets will increase to 400 tonnes uranium equivalent, and in 2020 - fuel rods and assemblies totaling 400 tonnes of uranium equivalent a year.
(Kyiv Post Sep. 22, 2010)
The Ministry of Fuel and Energy this week announced a tender to build a uranium plant and will pick a winner by early October, according to Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Natalia Shumkova. Russia's OAO Tvel and Toshiba Corp.'s Westinghouse Electric Co. have the experience to build the plant, she said.
(Kyiv Post June 26, 2010)
The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has endorsed the Nuclear Fuel of Ukraine state program, says Natalia Shumkova, deputy minister of fuel and energy.
She says in 2009 - 2013 it is planned to build on the basis of the Novokostiantyniv deposit a hydrometallurgical plant for the processing of uranium ore with a waste storage, launch the production of fuel assemblies, and create a full cycle of zirconium production, including production of tubular steel. In April 2008, the government set up the Nuclear Fuel concern based on the Eastern ore mining and dressing plant, the Novokostiantyniv uranium mine, state-run company Smoly, the Dnipropetrovsk works of precision pipes, and the Ukrainian scientific research, design and exploration institute of industrial technologies.
(NRCU Sep. 25, 2009)
Ukraine plans to start production of nuclear fuel assemblies in 2013:
Ukraine is planning to produce 50 fuel assemblies (FA) in 2013 under the special state economic program "Nuclear fuel of Ukraine."
According to the program, creating the FA production capacities will cost some UAH 3.59 billion [US$ 428 million]. It is planned that UAH 1.285 billion of this amount will be taken from the special fund of the state budget, and UAH 2.305 billion will be raised through attracting investments and funds from enterprises.
Ukraine needs to select a potential partner that possesses the technology to produce fuel for water-cooled reactors. Talks were held with JSC TVEL (Russia) and Westinghouse (United States).
(Kyiv Post Mar 4, 2009)
Britain to spend GBP 300 million on programme for production of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU)
Britain said it plans to spend 300 million pounds ($380 million) on a new programme to produce advanced nuclear fuel suitable for the next generation of power-generating reactors, seeking to dislodge Russia as the main international supplier.
On Sunday, Britain said its new investment would help support domestic production of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) [enriched to greater than 5 and less than 20 weight-% U-235] -- a type of fuel currently only produced on a commercial scale by Russia.
The first production plant is scheduled to be operational by the early 2030s in the North West of England, the statement said.
(Reuters Jan. 7, 2024)
[Britain has already demonstrated its ability to build a non-functioning nuclear fuel plant that no one needs, so why not do it again?]
Framatome plans to build nuclear fuel fabrication facility in the United Kingdom
Framatome announced today that it is planning the construction of a nuclear fuel fabrication facility in the UK and is evaluating targeted local industrial sites in engagement with the UK Government's Department for Energy Security and Net-Zero (DESNZ) and EDF in the UK.
The current assessment of selected existing and former nuclear generation sites precedes detailed site justification and pre-licensing studies expected to be engaged in 2024 under the guidance of the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).
The facility will manufacture nuclear fuel for large Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR) and Light Water Small Modular Reactors (SMR) to supply the future nuclear fleet in the UK and to support the wider deployment of SMRs in Europe.
(Framatome Nov. 29, 2023)
United Kingdom announces Nuclear Fuel Fund to bolster domestic nuclear fuel production
A £50m nuclear fuel fund to bolster production in the UK and support development of alternatives to Russian supply opens for applications on Monday (Jan. 2), the business department has announced .
The fund forms part of a nuclear fuel investment package of up to £75m, of which up to £13m has already been awarded to the nuclear fuel fabricators Westinghouse in Preston, helping the company develop conversion capability for reprocessed uranium and freshly mined uranium.
The £50m fund will support projects such as fuel supply options for light water reactors, including future small modular reactors. It will also look to support projects producing new fuel types that will be needed to supply advanced modular reactors, likely to be in operation from the 2030s, such as high-assay low-enriched uranium.
(The Guardian Jan. 2, 2023)
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