EDF and Veolia partner on robotics and vitrification

28 June 2018

EDF and Veolia are to co-develop robotic solutions for dismantling gas-cooled reactors and for vitrifying radioactive waste in France and worldwide, under a partnership agreement announced on 26 June. The deal is one of a set of official cooperation agreements EDF has signed with European partners in the decommissioning and radioactive waste management sector.

Jean-Bernard Lévy, on the left, and Antoine Frerot (Image: Veolia)

EDF is currently decommissioning six gas-cooled reactors (Uranium Naturel Graphite Gaz¸ or UNGG) at Bugey, Chinon and St Laurent-des-Eaux. The company's objective is to dismantle the facilities in the shortest timeframe possible. Veolia will provide its experience with remote handling with a view to designing and delivering innovative solutions to access the cores of the reactors and to cut up and extract components under optimum safety and security conditions, the companies said.

At the same time, they will work to develop an industrial solution for the vitrification of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste using Veolia's GeoMelt technology, which immobilises waste in a glass matrix to produce a stable and durable waste form that is easy to transport and store. GeoMelt has been used at sites including Hanford in the USA and Sellafield in the UK.

The two companies said their objective is the industrial implementation and joint commercial operation of the technologies.

EDF chairman and CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy said the agreement underscores the company's determination to become a key player in decommissioning and radioactive waste management. "This partnership is also tangible evidence of EDF and Veolia's desire to pool their know-how in the interests of developing successful industrial sectors," he said.

Antoine Frérot, chairman and CEO of Veolia, said the two companies had "a very high level of expertise" in their respective fields. "Our collaboration, which is expected to grow over time, demonstrates the extent of each company's vision and ambition with regard to processing the most environmentally sensitive waste and preserving the environment," he said.

The six UNGG reactors being decommissioned in France entered service between 1963 and 1972. With the exception of Chinon A1, which closed in 1973, all operated for over 20 years.

EDF secures its position

The agreement with Veolia is one of a set of official cooperation agreements with European industrial partners signed by EDF at a nuclear industry conference in Paris this week. "The purpose of these agreements is to secure the position of France's nuclear decommissioning sector and to promote its international expansion. Worldwide, decommissioning is a high-potential market with more than 130 permanently shut-down reactors around the world and a projected value of more than EUR200 billion by 2050. Having dismantled nine nuclear reactors of four different designs, EDF is internationally renowned as a leading dismantling specialist," the company said today.

EDF said the agreements enable it to team up with industrial partners who can supplement the EDF Group's range of solutions with their own technologies and expertise, whilst also establishing partnerships with industrial players who have been working on similar technical matters to those encountered by the Group on its own projects.

In addition to the agreement with Veolia, EDF has this week signed an agreements with French company Orano to develop a joint range of solutions for the decommissioning of the Monju fast-breeder reactor in Japan; Fortum of Finland to develop joint decommissioning and radioactive waste management solutions on the Nordic market; the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, laying the foundations for cooperation with the decommissioning of 27 graphite (Magnox) reactors in the UK; with Italian state-run decommissioning and waste management company SOGIN (Società Gestione Impianti Nucleari) to develop joint solutions; and with France's CEA for the development of common standards and digital tools. It has also acquired digital start-up company Oreka Solutions in support of the its nuclear decommissioning projects.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News