Areva completes Cadarache MOX decommissioning

08 March 2017

Areva has completed the clean-up and dismantling of facilities at the former mixed-oxide fuel fabrication plant at Cadarache, in southern France. The company described the project as "one of the largest dismantling projects in the world".

ATPu building at Cadarache - 460 (Areva)
The ATPu building at Cadarache (Image: Larrayadieu Eric / Areva)

The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) began construction of the Plutonium Technology Workshops (ATPu) at Cadarache in 1959 and production of plutonium fuel for fast neutron reactors started in 1962. Operation of the Chemical Purification Laboratory (LPC) followed in 1966. In 1978, Cadarache began producing plutonium fuel for the Phenix and Super-Phenix fast breeder reactors. The manufacture of MOX (mixed uranium and plutonium oxide) fuel for light water reactors started at the site in 1989. MOX production at Cadarache was taken over by Areva in 1991, but in 2000 the company decided to consolidate MOX production at its Melox plant at the Marcoule site.

The Cadarache plant - which had the capacity to produce 42 tonnes of MOX fuel annually - manufactured its last MOX fuel rods in July 2003. The ATPu was closed in June 2008. Over the 40 years the MOX plant operated, it recycled more than 50 tonnes of plutonium.

Operations to clean-up and dismantle the MOX plant began in 2009 and primarily concerned the ATPu and LPC. Since then, more than 460 glove boxes, 30 tanks and 4 kilometres of pipework have been dismantled, cut and packaged for disposal.

Areva announced yesterday that around 60 emptied process areas have now been handed back to the CEA, the operator of the Cadarache site.

Alain Vandercruyssen, senior executive vice president of Areva's dismantling and services business unit, said: "Areva has demonstrated its capacity to carry out complex clean-up and dismantling operations. The innovations and the methods for working in highly radioactive zones that we've developed in Cadarache are all assets that Areva can now build into its offer for its customers in France and abroad."

The CEA's Cadarache site is home to around 20 nuclear installations as well as the site of the international Iter fusion demonstration project.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News