Expertise made available to our international partners
The recycling of nuclear fuel is not limited to France alone. Other countries with a significant nuclear power infrastructure, including China, Russia, India, the United States and the United Kingdom also have recycling infrastructure or have expressed interest in having it.
The objective of the International Projects Business Unit (IP BU) of AREVA’s Back End Business Group is to promote skills acquired in French plants in this field to meet the needs of international customers. It is also responsible for providing waste storage and disposal solutions to international customers.
Both the USA and Russia have decided to recycle their declared surplus military plutonium in civilian nuclear reactors. The USA has decided to call on the technology and skills offered by AREVA in the field of plutonium recycling and the manufacture of MOX fuel.
At the end of 2004, AREVA received 140 kg of US military plutonium for use in MOX fuel rods manufacturing. The four MOX assemblies manufactured by AREVA were returned to the USA in 2005. Following exhaustive testing, this MOX fuel has been in use in the Catawba PWR reactor operated by Duke Power since June 2005.
In view of the success of this operation, the US government decided on April 11, 2007 to build a MOX manufacturing plant. AREVA is contributing to this project. The construction of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at the Savannah River site in South Carolina is making good progress. The Shaw AREVA MOX Services team (SAMOX) is building the facility for the US Department of Energy (DOE).
In 2010, AREVA was selected to set up a training program called MOX-STAR (MOX Services Training on AREVA Reference sites), which is currently in the preparation phase. The group will train 93 MFFF employees at the MELOX and La Hague sites as part of this program.
The numbers are impressive: though the Asian continent represents only 18% of the world’s installed nuclear generating capacity (2012 data), it accounts for two thirds of the new builds in progress.
By 2030, a very near-term horizon in our businesses, Asia will represent 35% of the world’s installed generating capacity and will continue to account for around 60% of all new builds.
China’s emergence as a major nuclear power is also a crucial aspect of this market. That country currently represents 12 GWe of installed capacity, or less than 20% of the total for the continent, and is expected to reach nearly 60% of the total by 2030. During that same period of from 2012 to 2030, total installed capacity in Asia is expected to climb from 74 to 206 GWe.
Asia is a key region for AREVA today: it represented 20% of the group’s sales revenue and one third of its backlog in 2011.
One of the group’s priorities for the coming years is the development of a recycling plant in China. The Nuclear Policy Council (CPN, Conseil de politique nucléaire), meeting on September 28, 2012, confirmed the strategic importance of the nuclear partnership with China. AREVA is entering a very active phase of negotiations with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) following the green light from both governments to pursue negotiations.
For more than 20 years, the Back End Business Group has been collaborating with Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL) as part of a partnership in the recycling field.
This partnership led to the construction of a used nuclear fuel recycling plant at the Rokkasho-Mura site in Japan. The plant will have a recycling capacity of about 800 metric tons per year. The IP BU is heavily involved alongside JNFL to help ensure a successful plant startup.
As part of the support provided in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident, the International Projects BU offered TEPCO a variety of services to manage the used fuel in the pools of the damaged reactors and waste at the site, and robotic equipment to measure, decontaminate and reach the damaged vessels of units 1, 2 and 3. The group is also offering decontamination solutions for the soil and land around the power plant.
The major challenge is to capitalize on this experience and to apply it to conventional reactor dismantling activities, in Japan in particular but also in Taiwan.
As for the other operations, a local presence is essential if we are to develop business in these areas.
AREVA is a member of the consortium that manages the Sellafield site – Britain’s largest nuclear site – and of the consortium managing the low-level waste disposal facility near Drigg.
In 2012, the Department of Energy and Climate Change published its findings following the public consultation launched in February 2011 on the long-term management of plutonium stocks. It confirmed that its preferred option is to reuse the 100 metric tons of plutonium stored in the United Kingdom in the form of MOX fuel.
This position uses as a reference the operating experience from the MELOX plant and is a very favorable development for the BU. It opens the door to a new MOX plant based on AREVA technology in the United Kingdom.
Rest of Europe
The International Projects BU is mainly active on new waste storage and disposal facility construction projects through its longstanding relations with European customers.
Recently completed and ongoing projects include the Covra project in the Netherlands, with design studies to expand the facility designed by SGN in the 1990s, and the Enresa project in Spain, with the ATC centralized storage facility for high-level waste and spent fuel.
The Business Unit is also very actively promoting AREVA’s unique experience in the design of storage and disposal facilities for waste of all types, adapting concepts proven in France to the specific concerns of these new European customers.