Orano contracted to reprocess Fugen used fuel

28 June 2022

Orano has been awarded a contract by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) for the transport and treatment in France of 731 used fuel assemblies from the Fugen experimental Advanced Thermal Reactor (ATR) in Japan. In 2018, Orano was contracted to conduct preparatory work for the transport operations.

The Fugen ATR (Image: JAEA)

Under the terms of the contract - worth EUR250 million (USD265 million) - Orano will continue to carry out all of the technical work required for the shipment of 111 metric tonnes of material. This will include the provision of a fleet of transport casks that meet national and international nuclear and occupational safety regulations, as well as execution of the sea shipments in conjunction with long-standing partners of proven expertise.

The contract also covers the performance of used fuel treatment and recycling operations at Orano's la Hague plant located in Normandy, France, together with the conditioning of the final waste that will be returned to Japan.

"The materials extracted during industrial operations could be recycled to supply low-carbon electricity to the grid in France and Europe," Orano noted. "In France, 10% of nuclear-generated electricity comes from recycled materials."

Orano said the contract followed the Exchange of Notes on 15 June between the French and Japanese governments authorising and framing these transport and treatment operations.

"The signing of this contract confirms the relevance of used fuel processing as a responsible and efficient nuclear materials management solution for our customers," said Pascal Aubret, Senior Executive Vice President of Orano's Recycling Business Unit. "It underscores the international dimension of Orano la Hague's facilities as well as its excellence. This successful outcome is also a reward for all the work and effort put in by our teams in Japan and France on this project."

JAEA awarded Orano a contract in November 2018 - the value of which was not disclosed - to carry out preparatory work for the shipment of the Fugen fuel to France. Under that contract, Orano was to conduct all the technical preparatory works for the future shipments of the nuclear materials planned to be carried out between 2023 and 2026, including the design and manufacturing of a fleet of transport casks which meet national and international nuclear safety and security regulations.

Fugen was a 165 MWe heavy water moderated, boiling light water cooled reactor of the pressure tube type. It was fuelled solely with mixed oxide (MOX) uranium and plutonium fuel. The reactor - at Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture - entered commercial operation in March 1979 and was shut down in March 2003. The reactor's decommissioning programme was approved in February 2008.

Used fuel from the Fugen ATR had previously been reprocessed at JAEA's Tokai reprocessing plant in Ibaraki prefecture, which entered full operation in 1981. However, the plant was idled in 2006 when a contract for reprocessing used fuel from commercial power reactors came to an end. JAEA announced in September 2014 that it would permanently shut down the reprocessing plant as modifications required under post-Fukushima safety regulations were too costly.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News