The Front End Business Group at a Glance
The Front End Business Group (BG) combines operations related to uranium conversion and enrichment as well as the design and fabrication of fuel for nuclear reactors. AREVA is a world leader in the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle and has major industrial plants, primarily in Europe (France, Germany and Belgium) and in the United States.
Goals and outlook
• To optimize its existing production resources
• To build new capacities
• To stengthen its integrated fuel offer
Synergistic Business Units
Sale revenue 2014
The Chemistry business involves purification of mining concentrates, followed by conversion of the uranium oxide into uranium hexafluoride.
The Chemistry Business Unit also provides uranium chemistry services to other segments of the fuel cycle, including defluorination (conversion of depleted uranium hexafluoride into an oxide) and denitration (recycling of uranium from used fuel).
Enrichment involves the isotopic conversion of natural uranium, which consists of increasing the proportion of uranium-235 to make fuel that can be used in nuclear reactors. Two enrichment processes are currently in use on an industrial scale worldwide: centrifugation and gaseous diffusion. AREVA’s Georges Besse II enrichment plant uses the centrifugation process.
The Fuel Business Unit combines the design, fabrication and sale of nuclear fuel assemblies for pressurized water reactors (PWR), boiling water reactors (BWR) and research reactors.
The Fuel BU manufactures the zirconium components needed to fabricate assemblies and also sells some of these components outside the Group. In addition, the BG sells a number of fuel-related onsite services and engineering services.
An international market
Sale revenue 2014
In 2012, more than 60% of the Business Group's sales revenue was in Europe (including France). The geographic distribution of its markets varies greatly from one business unit to another. The Front End BG also has a significant presence in Asia-Pacific and in North America.
In 2011, world demand for conversion services was estimated at around 55,000 metric tons of uranium concentrates per year, including 17,200 metric tons in Western and Central Europe (Euratom zone), 6,600 metric tons in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, 18,000 metric tons in North America, and 12,100 metric tons in Asia.
With 14,000 metric tons of UF6 production capacity in 2011, AREVA is a major global player in uranium conversion services. The Chemistry Business Unit’s strategic objective is to bolster its position as a major player on the global uranium conversion market. To that end, AREVA decided to invest in a new conversion plant at the Malvési and Pierrelatte sites to replace its production plants; this is being done through the Comurhex II project. At full capacity, the new plant will be able to produce 15,000 metric tons, which may be increased to 21,000 metric tons if warranted by market conditions.
The world has total available enrichment capacity of some 50 million SWU per year. The new Georges Besse II enrichment plant, which replaces the Georges Besse I plant shut down in January 2011, began production in April 2011. It had reached an installed production capacity of one million SWU as of the end of 2011, just a few months after startup. Two new centrifuge cascades are scheduled to enter service each month to reach its nominal production capacity of 7.5 million SWU per year by 2016.The Enrichment Business Unit’s backlog represents close to 35 utility customers divided mainly among the United States, Europe and Asia, representing average annual commitments from the equivalent of a hundred of the world’s reactors.
In the fuel business, the BG mainly serves the market for Western-designed light water reactors, of which there are about 300 worldwide. These reactors require approximately 6,000 to 7,000 metric tons of fuel each year.
The United States now accounts for 40% of the market, while Europe and Asia represent 35% and 25% respectively. AREVA’s overall share of this market segment is around 35%. Ensuring fuel reliability is a major objective of the Fuel Business Unit. In addition to that major requirement, the Fuel Business Unit continues efforts to improve its operating performance, whether for design or for fabrication, as well as industrial safety, nuclear safety and environmental protection, with excellence the target in all cases.
AREVA intends not only to grow but to expand its market share in the Front End business with an integrated services offer. To accomplish this, the Group continues to expand and replace its industrial facilities and its fuel offer.