Progress for Orano fuel cycle projects

25 June 2018

China National Nuclear Corporation subsidiary CNLA and Orano Projects, a subsidiary of French nuclear company Orano, have agreed on preparatory works for a Chinese plant to process and recycle used nuclear fuel, Orano announced today. Orano is also reported to be planning investments in its French uranium conversion facility.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe arriving in Shenzhen on 22 June (Image: Florian David/Matignon)

The agreement was confirmed during French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe's current visit to China and runs to the end of this year, Orano said. It covers advance work to be carried out by Orano in preparation for the recycling plant project.

A memorandum of commercial agreement for the construction of a used fuel processing and recycling facility was signed in January by New Areva and CNNC, shortly before New Areva's change of name to Orano. That memorandum was one of several signed over the years following a November 2007 agreement to assess the feasibility of setting up an 800 tonne per year reprocessing plant in China based on Areva's La Hague and Melox plants, which at the time represented an estimated investment of EUR15 billion (USD17.5 billion).

No site has yet been announced for the plant, although Chairman of Orano Projets Patrick Jacq said earlier this year that Orano had mobilised "some 100 people" to carry out preparatory work.

Malvési investments

Orano has also announced plans to invest EUR300 million over five years at its Malvési uranium conversion site near Narbonne in southern France, L'usine nouvelle reported on 13 June. Projects included in the investment include an EUR80 million nitrate waste treatment unit using Studsvik's Thor thermal process; upgrading of the conversion plant's hydrofluorination unit, and the creation of a dry sludge storage cell, as well as upgrades to security.

The Malvési plant - part of Orano's Comurhex II uranium conversion complex - converts uranium concentrates to uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) which is then shipped to a plant at the company's Pierrelatte site to produce uranium hexafluoride, the feed for uranium enrichment.

A five-year contract signed by Orano with ConverDyn earlier this year will represent about 20% of the output of the Comhurex II conversion plant, the same report said. The USA's only uranium conversion plant, Metropolis, for which ConverDyn is the exclusive marketer, has been on standby since October 2017. The plant's owner, Honeywell, in November announced that production at Metropolis would remain suspended pending an improvement in business conditions.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News