Suez buys stake in Georges Besse II enrichment plant

04 June 2008

Suez has agreed to acquire a 5% equity stake in Areva's new Georges Besse II (GB-II) uranium enrichment plant under construction at Tricastin, France.

Georges Besse II 

Schematic of GB-II (Image: Areva)

Areva and Suez have signed an agreement under which Suez will acquire a 5% stake in Areva-owned Société d'Enrichissement du Tricastin (SET), which holds the GB-II plant, for an undisclosed sum.

In a statement the two companies said: "The agreement reflects the two group's intention to further develop their present industrial cooperation. With it, Suez will be able to secure a portion of its nuclear reactor supply needs in enriched uranium."

Suez owns Electrabel, Belgium's largest power generator which operates two nuclear power plants with a total of seven reactors (three at Tihange and four at Doel with a total capacity 5800 MWe). In early 2007, the company announced its intention of "increasing its nuclear power generation capacities through the construction of new power plants in Europe in line with national public policies. The objective for 2015-20 is to own and operate new third-generation nuclear plants."

Areva spokesman Julien Duperray told Bloomberg that the company is "open to the sale of further limited stakes in the plant."

The €3 billion ($4.7 billion) GB-II plant is based on "ultra centrifuge technology" and is scheduled to start operating in 2009. The plant will replace Areva's existing Georges Besse enrichment plant at Tricastin, which uses energy-intensive gas diffusion technology. In April 2007, the new plant received a licence to operate at up to 8.2 million SWU per year, enriching uranium up to a maximum of 6%.

Suez, through its Energy Services business unit, was selected by SET in July 2007 to participate in the construction of the GB-II plant. Three subsidiaries of Suez Energy Services - AXIMA, ENDEL and INEO - are building the electrical installations, and supplying the fluid management systems and process cooling equipment of the new plant.

In February, Areva announced that it had reached a "major milestone" by passing possession of the centrifuge assembly facility at the Tricastin site to Enrichment Technology Company (ETC), a joint venture between Areva and Urenco. ET France - a subsidiary of ETC - will start assembling centrifuges fabricated at its German and Dutch factories at Tricastin this summer.