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Used fuel shipment from Australia to France

Unloading of a boat transporting used fuel casks

Logistics records/areas of development

The first maritime shipment of research reactor used fuel from Australia to France initiates a new partnership between the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization, ANSTO, and the French AREVA NC.

The used fuel elements that will be transferred to France arise from the HIFAR research reactor, operated by ANSTO. HIFAR is at the heart of Australia's nuclear science and technology program, which encompasses the fields of nuclear medicine, serving domestic and foreign markets, materials and environmental research.

used fuel from nuclear research reactors may be managed under three main strategies : long-term storage, direct disposal or overseas recycling. Given the particular nature of ANSTO's fuel, Australia has chosen the overseas recycling path due to the widely recognised advantages of this proven industrial solution. To implement this strategy, ANSTO has contracted with AREVA NC, the world leader in nuclear fuel recycling, with more than three decades of successful and safe industrial operation.

The recycling operations as well as the associated transports will be carried out under very stringent Quality Assurance/ Quality Control policies and will be in full compliance with all relevant international and national regulations, particularly those related to safety.

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Used fuel shipment from Australia to France

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Nuclear activities in Australia

HIFAR the Australian research reactor

HIFAR reactor

Australia was one of the first countries to build a nuclear research reactor. The High Flux Australian Reactor (HIFAR), the only functioning nuclear reactor in the country, is operated by ANSTO at the Lucas Heights Science and Technology Center site, some forty kilometers south of Sydney. It is at the heart of almost all ANSTO's research activities and supports those of several other organizations on the Lucas Heights site.

What is a nuclear research reactor?

Research reactors are smaller than nuclear power reactors used to generate electricity, in terms of size and power output. For instance, commercial power reactors often exceed 3,000 megawatts and may hold 150 tonnes of fuel. Whereas HIFAR nominal maximum power output is 10 megawatts, with a total fuel load of only 7 kilograms.

Research reactors play a vital role in important medical, environmental, agricultural, scientific and industrial applications.

HIFAR, a key tool in Australian nuclear expertise

HIFAR has operated at Lucas Heights since 1958.

Today, HIFAR irradiates materials and generates neutron beams for various purposes in the fields of medicine and health, scientific research, the environment and industry.

By the end of 2005, after more than 47 years of operation, HIFAR will be shut down and replaced by a new research reactor that will be constructed at Lucas Heights.

Medical applications

HIFAR generates a range of radioactive elements called radioisotopes. They are selected for their specific characteristics appropriate for diagnostic or therapeutic applications such as muscular skeletal injuries, pain palliation, heart disease, and the detection and treatment of cancer. Its biggest customers are the nuclear medicine departments of hospitals and clinics in Australia and the Asian region.

Nuclear medicine is one of the fastest growing fields in modern medicine.On current projections, nearly every Australian can expect to have a nuclear medicine procedure in their lifetime.

Scientific applications

With more than 7,000 hours in neutron beam time provided each year, HIFAR is a major research tool for scientists and students from Australia and overseas.

Studies of the chemical structures and magnetic properties of materials are made using neutron diffraction or scattering techniques. These studies permit the development of stronger, lighter, more heat resistant materials for industry, more useful chemicals and advanced pharmaceuticals.

Industrial applications

HIFAR irradiates silicon crystals, transmuting silicon atoms into phosphorus to suit the needs of electronic components manufacturers from Japan and other countries. The silicon irradiated in HIFAR is returned to silicon suppliers where it is sliced into wafers and supplied to electronics companies.

t is subsequently used in Charge Coupled Devices (CCDs) in video cameras and fax machines, in high power transistors, diodes, thyristors and Silicon Controlled Rectifiers (SCRs) for power transmission and air conditioning control units, and in computer DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory).

Research reactors worldwide

Research Reactors are often called RTRs (Research and Test Reactors).

There are currently more than 250 research reactors operating worldwide.

About 50 have a similar capacity to HIFAR.

Research reactors are commonly located within urban populations and on university campuses.

60 countries across every continent operate RTRs.

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ANSTO, operator of HIFAR

Panoramique view of Sydney

Established in April 1987 to replace the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, ANSTO, is at the centre of Australian nuclear expertise.

This Australian Government agency occupies a 70-hectare site separated from residences by a 1.6 km buffer zone of predominantly virgin bushland.

With a staff of more than 800, ANSTO is one of the largest employers in the Sutherland Shire local government area and makes a significant economic contribution to the Shire and nearby areas.

The Lucas Heights Science and Technology Centre is also home to part of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and other businesses involved in science and technology. Together with the use of contractors and service providers from the local area, some 1,100 people are employed at the site.

ANSTO pursues several objectives:

  • to provide expert scientific and technical advice across the nuclear fuel cycle to government in support of nuclear policy issues of strategic national interest and Australia's international obligations in this area. ANSTO provides notably the technical basis for Australia's participation in:
    • - the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (UN-IAEA) and,
    • - the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD- NEA).
  • to operate large nuclear science and technology based facilities in Australia and overseas for the benefit of industry and the Australian research and development community.The facilities operated by ANSTO include particularly the research reactor HIFAR, the National Medical Cyclotron (NMC) and the Australian National Tandem Accelerator for Applied Research (ANTARES).
  • to undertake research on specific topics to advance the understanding of nuclear science and the nuclear fuel cycle. ANSTO operates in a number of research areas. Among them are the application of nuclear physics, advanced ceramics, the processing and utilisation of radioactive materials, radioactive waste management, bio-medicine and health, environmental sciences, research in crystal and molecular structures, and radiopharmaceutical sciences.
  • to apply resulting technologies and other relevant, unique capabilities to focused research and development and other scientific activities to increase the competitiveness of Australian industry and improve the quality of life for all Australians.

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ANSTO'S used fuel management

Unloading used fuel

Since the beginning of its operations some forty years ago. HIFAR has accumulated an inventory of more than 2.000 used fuel elements. ANSTO, with the approve of the Australian Gouvernment, has selected the overseas reprocessing path. To implement this strategy, ANSTO has contracted with AREVA NC.

How does the HIFAR reactor operate?

The HIFAR core contains 25 fuel elements, containing enriched uranium, which is alloyed with aluminum. All HIFAR elements were manufactured in the UK, while the enriched uranium was supplied by both the UK and the USA. After the fuel is placed inside the reactor core, fission -the splitting of uranium atoms -occurs.

After some time, the nuclear fuel is no longer able to operate efficiently. Therefore every four weeks, three or four used or used fuel elements are removed from the reactor and replaced by new fuel elements.

Annually, HIFAR uses around 37 fuel elements.

Storing spent nuclear fuel elements for several years under water allows them to lose much of their activity.When the heat has decreased sufficiently, interim dry storage is made possible.

Options available for used fuel management ?

Depending on the nature of the fuel, the long- term options for research reactor used fuel management may include extended interim storage, direct disposal and overseas reprocessing.

Long-term interim storage

The long-term interim storage of used fuel does not constitute a reliable solution. Indeed, some research reactors operators have encountered corrosion and material degradation problems in existing facilities. This option therefore cannot be considered as an acceptable solution.

Direct disposal

The direct disposal of research reactor used fuel elements option faces several unsolved difficulties. Given the nature of aluminium clad fuel, one has to ensure that the fuel and its enriched uranium content will remain safe and stable over a long period of time.

Technical and economical risks and uncertainties may therefore impair the development of the direct disposal option for research reactor used fuel for many years.

Reprocessing

The overseas reprocessing option is a reality, as demonstrated by decades of experience in several countries around the world. In France, AREVA NC's track record in reprocessing encompasses more than 30 years, mainly in the large scale AREVA NC La Hague plant.

Separating the remaining enriched uranium still contained in the used fuel from the waste, makes the uranium available for further use. The isolation and conditioning of the ultimate waste into a highly stable form provides a safe and sound solution for transport, long-term storage and final disposal.

Moreover, it significantly minimizes the ultimate volume of the waste disposed of when compared to the other options generally available for RTR used fuel management.

RTR used fuel reprocessing, main advantages :

  • Recovery of valuable and reusable material
  • Reduction of volume of ultimate waste
  • High stability of the ultimate residues
  • Safe conditioning for transport, long-term storage and final disposaI

ANSTO's used fuel management :

The strategy put in place by ANSTO and approved by the Australian Government involves the following successive steps:

  • Reprocessing of used fuel overseas, as no reprocessing facility has been established or will be established in Australia
  • Conditioning of the waste into a dedicated form (known as long-Iived intermediate waste form), suitable for final storage.
  • Return of the waste to Australia.
  • Long-term storage of the conditioned waste in a national intermediate level radioactive waste storage facility. Three shipments of used fuel had already been sent overseas prior to the ANSTO-AREVA NC agreement, two to the United Kingdom and one to the United States

Previous shipments to the United Kingdom and the United States

The first shipment to the UK, in 1963, was of 150 elements, while the second, in 1996, was of 114 elements. The two shipments were sent to the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority's Dounreay plant in Scotland.

HIFAR has also used US-origin fuel elements. The United States has launched a program to repatriate the used fuel of US-origin, and 240 used fuel elements were shipped to the US Department of Energy's Savannah River site, in 1998. No wastes will be returned to Australia from these Us-origin fuel elements.

Soon after this last shipment, the United Kingdom Government decided Dounreay would not enter into new fuel reprocessing contracts. This meant that ANSTO had to look to other commercial reprocessors to handle its non-Us origin used fuel.

A new Partnership ANSTO/AREVA NC

ANSTO and AREVA NC completed negotiations and a contract was signed in January, 1999. Under the terms of this contract, AREVA NC will assist ANSTO in the implementation of its strategy of durable and reliable back-end management for the research reactor used fuel.

The services that AREVA NC shall perform are, briefly:

  • Transport of the used fuel elements in dedicated casks on specially equipped ships from Australia to France.
  • Reprocessing of the used fuel elements at the AREVA NC La Hague plant
  • Conditioning of the ultimate waste into a stable form
  • Return of ultimate residues for storage and final disposal in Australia.

The contract covers all non-US HIFAR used fuel (about 1,300 fuel elements) and has provisions for the reprocessing of the used fuel from the replacement reactor. The 1,300 HIFAR used fuel elements will be transported in four shipments.

The ultimate residues shall be returned to Australia, as provided for by the French law, and by the terms of the commercial agreement. Both the French and Australian Governments support the principle of the return.

The return shipments of residues, which will be encased in special canisters contained in dual- purpose casks (for transport and storage), shall take place by 2015. The quantity of residues to be returned is estimated to be 36 canisters having a total volume of around 6 cubic meters.

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AREVA NC a sound and reliable partner

Concreting solid waste packages

France is one of the leading nuclear technology countries in the world with 58 nuclear power plants in operation. Nuclear provides 76% of French electricity output.

Several companies and research institutes are in charge of running the French nuclear technology program. Among them, AREVA NC, established in 1976 specializes in the nuclear fuel cycle. Its main share holders are the French state (78%), the Total Fina-Elf Group (15%), and ERAP (7%).

AREVA NC is active throughout the world in various fields from uranium mining and enrichment to used fuel reprocessing and recycling as well as transport. Outside the nuclear field, AREVA NC also provides engineering and services to several industries. With a workforce of approximately 20 000 highly skilled and well-trained persons, AREVA NC ranks among the foremost French industrial groups.

AREVA NC provides services to French and foreign customers : 41.2 % of the above cited figure was achieved abroad. AREVA NC has subsidiaries and affiliates mainly in the USA, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Ukraine, Japan, Republic of Korea, China, Taiwan and Australia. AREVA NC's activities contribute to the optimisation of the use of energy resources and the minimization of ultimate waste volume and toxicity in line with the objectives defined at the 1992 Earth Summit regarding sustainable development.

Control room at AREVA NC La Hague

AREVA NC's control room for shipping operations at La Hague

AREVA NC and the management of RTR (Research and Test Reactor) used fuel

AREVA NC is the world's largest provider of used fuel reprocessing services, with over 20,000 tonnes of Light Water Reactor (Power Reactor) used fuel reprocessed by march 2005. AREVA NC has many years of experience reprocessing RTR used fuel from French research reactors.

The first reprocessing plant in operation in France was Marcoule, which operated from the mid-1950's to September 1997.

The AREVA NC La Hague industrial complex, located in Normandy, started up in 1966 and has been reprocessing nuclear used fuel from French and foreign utility customers since then. AREVA NC La Hague has a nominal capacity of 1,700 tonnes per year and has already contracts to reprocess nuclear used fuel with about other 29 utilities from 6 other countries (France, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands).

The whole plant has reached a high degree of industrial performance together with outstanding quality, safety, flexibility and environmental protection results.

AREVA NC La Hague plant evolution has always been characterised by the implementation of state-of-the-art equipment. New units are less than 10 years old and will be operational for several decades into the next century.

AREVA NC has set up a unique gathering of the most advanced technologies to minimise and manage waste arising from nuclear used fuel processing.

More specifically, AREVA NC has gained sound experience in RTR used fuel management, including transportation, reprocessing, conditioning and shipment of the related ultimate waste.

In addition to the contract with ANSTO, AREVA NC has used fuel management contracts with the Belgian BR2 research reactor and the international ILL research reactor in France.

AREVA NC through its subsidiary TN International offers optimised services covering the complete transport chain (cask design and manufacture, transport preparation and follow-through, maintenance).

TN International uses several types of casks for the transport of RTR used fuel.

In 1999, TN International has introduced a new generation transport cask, called the TN-MTR.

This cask has been specially designed for easy handling, without sophisticated equipment. It will be used for the transport of ANSTO's used fuel elements. RTR used fuel transportation is routinely made around the world.

In 1998, 16 shipments were performed by TN International , two of which were from the Belgian BR2 research reactor.

Reprocessing of used fuel

About 13,000 kg of aluminide used fuel arising from 21 research reactors and 5,900 kg of heavy metal of other types of RTR fuels were successfully reprocessed at the AREVA NC - UP1 plant located at Marcoule. UP1 was shut down for commercial reasons in 1997 after forty years of satisfactory operation. The know-how gained through this experience has been transferred to the framework of  AREVA NC La Hague plant activities.

Conditioning of the waste

For the ultimate residues to be disposed of in Australia, AREVA NC will use the Universal Canister. The Universal Canister can accommodate every type of waste for storage and final disposal including vitrified fission products and compacted structural pieces that arise from reprocessing operations. As of mid 2003, 9,600 vitrified residues canisters have been safely produced at AREVA NC La Hague in full compliance with customer requirements and the relevant national regulations

Transportation of ultimate residues

The return of residues is a well-established procedure as 8 overseas transports of vitrified residues have already been safely conducted by sea, from France to Japon, 5 by rail and road to Germany as well as 6 to Belgium, and 4 to Switzerland.

The transport of the conditioned ultimate residues as well as the reprocessing and conditioning steps abide by the most stringent international and national regulations and standards.

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Recycling, a durable and dependable solution

Storage of used fuel in a pool

The reprocessing of HIFAR used fuel elements will be performed under the routine, well-established industrial process in use at AREVA NC La Hague. Reprocessing is a series of mechanical and chemical operations which separate the valuable and reusable material still contained in nuclear used fuel (such as enriched uranium) from final wastes that have no further use and cannot be recycled. After having been separated, the wastes are conditioned into a very stable and compact form suitable for transport, storage and final disposal.

The PROCESS - The different steps

Recycling involves several successive steps. In addition, preliminary operations are carried out before actual recycling begins.

On arrival at the AREVA NC La Hague plant, after checking the transport casks and their contents, the fuel elements will be removed from the transport casks, placed in baskets and stored underwater in a deactivation pool, enabling cooling, as necessary, before the commencement of recycling.

Used fuel recycling

Recycling will begin with the dissolution operation. Once out of the pool, the used fuel will be cut into pieces as necessary and dissolved into a nitric acid liquor. The liquor arising from HIFAR used fuel dissolution will be blended down with liquors from dissolution of commercial power reactor used fuel.

In the further process steps, uranium will be separated for storage and subsequent recycling. Fission products, the very low quantity of plutonium, and structural pieces will then be conditioned into a very stable form suitable for transport, storage and final disposal.

Waste conditioning

The industrial process applied to the conditioning of these various categories of wastes will vary according to their nature. Fission products and plutonium will be vitrified, that is, incorporated into a stable glass matrix, while structural pieces will be compacted in discs.

Almost all the radioactivity will be encased in the glass matrix.

Both the glass matrix and compacted discs will then be encased in a standard stainless steel package referred to as the Universal Canister.

After being filled, the canisters will be hermetically sealed and will undergo a series of thorough checks.

ENCAPSULATION - The Universal Canister

The conditioned ultimate residues that will be returned to Australia are industrially proven high technology products, manufactured under strict Quality Assurance and Quality Control systems.

view of the Universal canister

The main characteristics of the Universal canister are as follows: Height 1.34m Outside diameter: 43 cm

An industrially proven high technology product...

The industrial processes (vitrification, compaction and conditioning in standard packaging) that will be used to safely immobilise the various categories of residues removed from HIFAR used fuel through recycling at La Hague result from thirty years of extensive research carried out in France. These R & D activities were aimed at identifying the most stable solid form to immobilise the resulting long-Iived intermediate level wastes.

All the industrial processes, whose efficiency has been internationally recognised, are already or will be shortly implemented on a commercial scale at the AREVA NC La Hague recycling plant. More than 9,600 canisters of vitrified residues have been safely produced as of mid 2003.

...manufactured under very stringent QuaIity Assurance and Control systems (QA/QC)...

All the conditioned ultimate residues to be returned to Australia will be manufactured in compliance with specifications meeting the IAEA criteria for long-Iived intermediate level wastes and approved by the relevant competent authorities in Australia and France. AREVA NC will implement very stringent Quality Assurance systems and Quality Control program (QA/QC) to guarantee that the conditioned ultimate residues comply with the above mentioned specifications.

More specifically, a dedicated QA Department has been set up at La Hague. It guarantees the whole plant Quality System while monitoring the quality of products delivered by nearly 200 suppliers. Each year, 100,000 conditioned products are checked according to this framework. In addition, on November 26, 1997, the AREVA NC La Hague plant was granted the ISO 9002 certification, following a thorough audit of the site. This proves the consistency and efficiency of the QA system in place at AREVA NC La Hague plant.

On top of that, foreign AREVA NC customers have contracted the internationally known Bureau Veritas with the responsibility of controlling the operations, the independent checking of the QA programs and the ability to certify compliance of each vitrified residues canister with agreed specifications.

...offering numerous advantages

The vitrification and compaction of final wastes as well as the use of a standard packaging to condition these ultimate residues provide several advantages.

High stability and safety of the ultimate residues

The industrial technologies developed and implemented at AREVA NC La Hague provide for a stable and long-term immobilisation of the various wastes sorted out through recycling. As for the vitrified residues, the high stability of such a glass matrix is illustrated by analogy with the glass obsidian, a natural minerai that remains for thousands of years without alteration. The ultimate residues are therefore stable for transport, long-term storage and final disposal.

Volume reduction of ultimate residues for disposal

The RTR used fuel management policy as implemented at AREVA NC La Hague offers an important volume reduction factor as compared to the other options generally available for RTR used fuel management. In addition, the improvement over the years of the techniques used at AREVA NC La Hague allows an optimisation of the waste conditioning. For instance, thanks to the compaction technique, the volume of the final residues has been divided by 4 compared to the previous conditioning process (cementation) used to immobilise structural pieces that are now compacted.

Easy handling and management of the ultimate residues for disposal

This advantage results from the use of a standard package, the Universal Canister, to accommodate all types of long-Iived and intermediate level wastes, regardless of their form, activity and final destination.

The final residues that will be manufactured at AREVA NC La Hague will be directly suitable for final disposal without any further conditioning. The conditioning of waste into universal canisters gives the ability to rationalize waste management for on site handling, for transport operations, and for interim storage and ultimate geological disposal. For the return shipment, the Universal Canisters will be loaded into dual-purpose storage and transport casks.

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AREVA NC and the environment

RADIATION - In perspective

What is radioactivity ?

Radioactivity is the property of certain atoms to emit radiation. The atoms constituting all matter are made up of a nucleus around which electrons gravitate. The nuclei are themselves made up of two kinds of particles : protons and neutrons. The nuclei may be stable or unstable, the latter change spontaneously and turn into new atoms of different chemical elements, while emitting one or more radiation. They are said to be radioactive. The radiation consists of the emission of different kinds of particles carrying more or less energy.

Where does radioactivity come from ?

Radioactivity is an integral part of the life of the universe. It is present everywhere, even without any human contribution.65% of the radiation dose received by man is natural. Natural radioactivity nowadays originates mainly from four sources :

  • cosmic rays from the sun and the outer space,
  • radiation emitted by numerous radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium naturally present in the Earth's crust,
  • air, containing emanations of radon, a radioactive gas produced by the decay of uranium and thorium contained in the Earth's crust,
  • natural radioactivity contained in food and drinks.

35% of the radiation dose received is manmade. This radioactivity comes from :

  • medical irradiation which is the greatest source of exposure owing to the development of radiotherapy, nuclear medicine and thermal cures (some mineral waters are rich in radium and thorium),
  • technical and industrial activities such as air travel, TV sets or computer screens also bring their contribution on a more daiIy basis.

How is radioactivity measured ?

Radioactive activity is measured in becquerels (Bq), the number of disintegrations of nuclei occurring each second in a sample. The amount of energy imparted to tissues from exposure to radiation is referred to as absorbed dose, the unit used is the gray (Gy).

The biological effects of radiation on an exposed organism, referred to as effective dose equivalent, is measured in sieverts (Sv), but the thousandth of a Sievert, the millisievert (mSv) is currently used. A modern chest X-ray results in an approximate dose of 0.03 mSv. Throughout the world, the annual average equivalent dose due to natural exposure is around 2.4 mSv.

RADIATION - In perspective

What is radioactivity ?

Radioactivity is the property of certain atoms to emit radiation. The atoms constituting all matter are made up of a nucleus around which electrons gravitate. The nuclei are themselves made up of two kinds of particles : protons and neutrons. The nuclei may be stable or unstable, the latter change spontaneously and turn into new atoms of different chemical elements, while emitting one or more radiation. They are said to be radioactive. The radiation consists of the emission of different kinds of particles carrying more or less energy.

Where does radioactivity come from ?

Radioactivity is an integral part of the life of the universe. It is present everywhere, even without any human contribution.65% of the radiation dose received by man is natural. Natural radioactivity nowadays originates mainly from four sources :

  • cosmic rays from the sun and the outer space,
  • radiation emitted by numerous radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium naturally present in the Earth's crust,
  • air, containing emanations of radon, a radioactive gas produced by the decay of uranium and thorium contained in the Earth's crust,
  • natural radioactivity contained in food and drinks.

35% of the radiation dose received is manmade. This radioactivity comes from :

  • medical irradiation which is the greatest source of exposure owing to the development of radiotherapy, nuclear medicine and thermal cures (some mineral waters are rich in radium and thorium),
  • technical and industrial activities such as air travel, TV sets or computer screens also bring their contribution on a more daiIy basis.

How is radioactivity measured ?

Radioactive activity is measured in becquerels (Bq), the number of disintegrations of nuclei occurring each second in a sample. The amount of energy imparted to tissues from exposure to radiation is referred to as absorbed dose, the unit used is the gray (Gy).

The biological effects of radiation on an exposed organism, referred to as effective dose equivalent, is measured in sieverts (Sv), but the thousandth of a Sievert, the millisievert (mSv) is currently used. A modern chest X-ray results in an approximate dose of 0.03 mSv. Throughout the world, the annual average equivalent dose due to natural exposure is around 2.4 mSv.

AREVA NC - Caring for the environment

The general environment policy of AREVA NC

From the very beginning the nuclear industry has been particularly careful to minimise harm to the environment. AREVA NC's care for the environment is one of the most important components of its general policy. AREVA NC has for a long time been a signatory of the "Companies charter for a sustainable development" and has made every effort to integrate the spirit of this Charter into its own structure and into its daiIy management methods. This has been done by controlling the undesirable effects of radiation and of by-products as well as to make the best possible use of raw materials and rehabilitation of sites.

In the implementation of this policy, AREVA NC owes a great deal to the total commitment of its employees. The care of environment is placed under the responsibility of the Direction of Quality-Safety-Environment at headquarters, with a team of environmental advisers at each site.

This commitment to environment protection has led to setting up an environmental management system based on the ISO 14000 standard on each of AREVA NC's sites. This initiative is part of a much wider Quality management process that has been set up in the majority of AREVA NC plants and sites. About thirty of these are certified as conforming with the ISO 9000 standard. The Quality Assurance and Quality Control programs are audited by an independent third party, the internationally known Bureau Veritas, making sure that these programs set-up by AREVA NC are appropriate and consistently applied.

Monitoring the environment

The environment and health impact of the AREVA NC La Hague recycling plant

To assess the environmental impact of the activities performed at La Hague, AREVA NC employs permanently 24 people and 5 specialized vehicles. Sampling is done on the atmosphere, rainwater, water tables, water used in homes or in agriculture, sea water, streams, plants, meat and milk from cattle raised in the surroundings, fish, molluscs, crustaceans and algae.

Each year, 25,000 samples are taken, on which more than 80,000 analyses are carried out.

In 2001 the impact of AREVA NC La Hague releases for the "critical group" (i.e. the more theoretically exposed people) was 0.010 mSv per year, i.e. eight times lower than the impact from the maximum authorized releases set by decrees of three Ministries (0.15 mSv), and one hundred times lower than the impact of natural radioactivity in the region, which is 2.6 mSv per person per year.

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Transport of used fuel from Australia to France

TRANSPORTATION - The logistical framework

The different steps:

The shipment of HIFAR used fuel elements will involve several successive steps. Loading fuel elements at the reactor site into the dedicated casks. The used fuel elements will be loaded under water into the transport casks at ANSTO's site, following established and practized procedures. The casks will then be drained, vacuum dried and hermetically sealed.

Transfer of the transport casks by road from the Lucas Heights site to a port in New South Wales. The loaded casks will be tied down in specially strengthened steel shipping ISO containers and transported by road to the port.

Loading of the casks onto a dedicated ship.

ANSTO has contracted an experienced transport agent to be responsible for all transport preparation and implementation between the reactor and the ship, including loading of casks onto the vessel.

Sea transportation from the Australian port to the French port of Cherbourg (Manche).

This sea transportation will be carried out on a dedicated ship meeting the requirements of the INF-2 classification set down by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The INF code applies to the ships carrying Irradiated Nuclear Fuel. Such ships have been operated by TN International since 1995.AREVA NC is responsible for all transport preparation and implementation from the time the casks are loaded onto the ship until their arrival at the recycling site, and has subcontracted all the related transport services to TN International.

At Cherbourg transfer of the transport casks from the vessel to the AREVA NC La Hague plant by road transport.Once arrived at the Cherbourg port, the shipping containers will be transferred, by using a harbour crane, from the vessel to a trailer with a maximum gross weight of 40 metric tonnes, meeting all domestic regulations regarding hazardous material transportation.They will then be transported by road to the AREVA NC La Hague plant where the shipping containers will be unloaded from the trailer. Later, the used fuel elements will be unloaded underwater from the transport casks, placed in baskets and stored underwater in a deactivation pool.

Specially designed transport casks

ANSTO's used fuel elements will be transported in specially designed casks.Thwo types of casks with similar safety characteristics will be used. These casks, named TN 7-2 and TN-MTR, are cylindrical structures and weigh around 20 tonnes each.

The TN 7 -2 and TN-MTR casks have been designed by TN International for accommodating different types of RTR used fuel, including the HIFAR fuel elements. TN International has designed more than one hundred shipping casks and containers meeting all regulatory requirements.

The TN-MTR cask, designed by TN International, incorporates state of the art features, high capacity and easy handling.

All casks were designed and built to standards for Type B(U)F packaging set by international experts representing the 136 member countries of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and their security and reliability have been carefully tested. They have been fully licensed for the transport of RTR used fuel by the relevant competent authorities in Australia and France.

Dedicated vessel

A specific purpose vessel is used to transport ANSTO's used fuel elements from Australia to France.

This European registered ship is 118 meters long and 20 meters wide and carries sufficient fuel to complete a journey without any port-call.

It has regularly been used to transport radioactive materials between Europe, United States and Asia.

It meets the international standards and requirements of the INF-2 classification set down by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

According to the INF-2 classification, the ship is equipped with :

  • Lateral reinforcement tanks for minimizing damage and for safety in case of accident
  • Additional fire detection and fire fighting systems.The ship is covered by a fire detection system and has sophisticated fire extinguishing equipment on board, including the ability to protect the casks by spraying water
  • Duplicated electrical systems
  • Radiological monitoring equipment
  • Modern communication and tracking system.

The INF-2 classification requirements also include a radiation protection training program for the crew and a specific shipboard emergency plan.

Schematic of the TN-MTR transport cask

Schematic of the TN-MTR transport cask

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At a glance

Want to contact us ?

Do you wish to know more? Do you have a question about reprocessing?

lnterested in transport issues?

Would you like to look at our reports and brochures?

Please do not hesitate to contact us!

ANSTO and AREVA NC operate dedicated websites where you can find lots of information and news, download brochures and annual reports, find other links...

Plus, if you phone, fax or write to us, we will be delighted to send you informational documents, such as annual reports or activity surveys.

Want to contact us ?

Do you wish to know more? Do you have a question about recycling?

lnterested in transport issues?

Would you like to look at our reports and brochures?

Please do not hesitate to contact us!

ANSTO and AREVA NC operate dedicated websites where you can find lots of information and news, download brochures and annual reports, find other links...

Plus, if you phone, fax or write to us, we will be delighted to send you informational documents, such as annual reports or activity surveys.

Where to find us ?

ANSTO

New Illawara Road

Lucas Heights 2234 Australia

Tel.: 61-2-9717-3111

Fax: 61-2-9543-5097

http://www.ansto.gov.au/

AREVA NC

2, rue Paul Dautier

BP 4 78141 Vélizy cedex France

Tel.: 33-1-39-26-30-00

Fax: 33-1-39-26-27-00

http://www.AREVA-nc.com/

http://www.cogemalahague.com/

http://www.tn-international.AREVA-nc.com/

Other useful links

Shipment of nuclear material between Australia and France follows international regulations and rules issued mainly by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

These two UN-affiliated bodies have their own websites. There you will find useful information on nuclear energy as a whole (www.iaea.or.at) and nuclear transport and regulations issues (http://www.imo.org/ ).

IAEA

P.O Box 100 Wagramerstrasse 5

A-1400 Vienna

Austria

Tel.: 43-1-26000

Fax: 43-1-26007

http://www.iaea.or.at/

IMO

4 Albert Embankment

London SE 1 7SR

Tel.: 44-171-735-7611

Fax: 44-1-171-587-3210

http://www.imo.org/

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