MOX fuel reprocessing
March 06, 2001
The French daily Le Monde, in its edition dated March 7, 2001, published an article this afternoon on MOX fuel from Germany that is being stored at COGEMA's La Hague plant before being reprocessed and recycled there. The story was based on information released by the antinuclear association WISE, at a time when shipments of nuclear materials between Germany and France are resuming.
COGEMA wishes to point out that the German utilities have their MOX fuel reprocessed and recycled in France in the same way they do their other spent fuels. Up to now, 56 tons of MOX fuel, shipped between 1988 and 1998, have been received for this purpose. Five tons were reprocessed in 1992, recycled and then returned to their owners for reloading in reactors.
These operations are being carried out under contracts approved by departments of the Ministry of Industry and covered by an agreement between the French and German governments, published in the Journal Officiel in 1990.
COGEMA also wishes to point out that any fuel arriving at the La Hague site is there to be reprocessed, recycled and then returned to the electric utility that owns it. The fuel is not brought there for storage.
COGEMA further notes that the operation of the COGEMA Group's facilities is fixed by decree and placed under the permanent authority of the Nuclear Installations Security Directorate (DSIN).
All shipments, deliveries and storage have been authorized by the DSIN.
In accordance with regulations governing the operations at the La Hague plant, the reprocessing must be authorized by security authorities on a case-by-case basis.
Consequently, there is nothing irregular or secret about these procedures.
At present, reprocessing is authorized in the UP2 400 plant. For reasons of technical and economic efficiency, COGEMA has requested a license to reprocess this fuel in its UP2 800 and UP 3 plants.
The application for this license, among others, was submitted at the time of the public inquiry held between February and May 2000. The requested license is not unlimited; it explicitly provides for the issuance of an additional license for each type of fuel, which would be requested with a specific application.
The inquiry commission gave its approval to the granting of this license.
The competent departments at the DSIN are now reviewing the application.
The feasibility of reprocessing MOX fuel has been demonstrated with the reprocessing of the German fuel. The plutonium extracted in this process has been recycled in MOX fuel. It is up to the customers, who remain the owners of the spent fuel, to work with COGEMA to set up the program for reprocessing their fuel. COGEMA's German customers intend to do that after the already-extracted plutonium has been recycled, which in current planning would be after 2005.