Storage capacity for plutonium-bearing materials: the ASN Commission calls Orano to a hearing

Published on 12/11/2021 at 09:00

Information notice

On 28 September 2021, the ASN Commission called Mr. Knoche, CEO of Orano, to a hearing. The hearing first of all reviewed the worsening of the difficulties the licensee of the Melox plant is experiencing for the fabrication of MOX fuel.

On 28 September 2021, the ASN Commission called Mr. Knoche, CEO of Orano, to a hearing.

After presenting its analysis of the problems observed at Mélox, Orano presented its action plan for overcoming the production difficulties.

Orano also presented the improvement prospects and its MOX production forecasts. These are mainly based on the use of a “wet process” uranium powder, that should be produced as of 2023 in the new unit called the New Wet Process (NVH) in Orano’s Malvési plant, currently under construction.

In the short term, the Melox problems result in faster than anticipated saturation of the storage capacity for plutonium-bearing materials. Orano indicated that, in the coming weeks, it intends to submit several authorisation applications to ASN for the creation of new plutonium-bearing storage premises at La Hague.

On the occasion of this hearing, the ASN Commission underlined its concern with regard to the rapid deterioration of the available margins for plutonium-bearing materials in the La Hague storage facilities. It also observed that, were these difficulties to persist, this information predicts saturation of the spent fuel pools far more rapidly than anticipated.

ASN therefore asked Orano to reinforce its forward planning approach, notably by taking account of pessimistic scenarios regarding the Melox plant’s return to nominal operation, in order to define arrangements and storage solutions offering a high level of safety.

ASN also reminded Orano of the importance of rapidly issuing appropriate information to the CLI and, if necessary, to propose a more in-depth dialogue with the stakeholders concerned.

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Date of last update : 09/03/2022