Enrichment: increasing the proportion of U235
The ore of uranium does not constitute directly the nuclear fuel necessary for the electricity production. The majority of reactors use uranium containing between 3% and 5% uranium-235 as fuel. Natural uranium contains only 0.7%. It is therefore necessary to increase the concentration of uranium-235 to obtain a fuel that can be used in nuclear reactors. This is called enrichment. AREVA uses the industrial processe of the centrifugation in Georges Besse II plant, whose the first productions have begun in April, 2011.
The enrichment plant EURODIF Production (Georges Besse plant) definitively stopped in June, 2012 after 33 years of continuous production. During these last thirty years, the plant enriched uranium for about 100 nuclear reactors in France and in the world by using the process of gaseous diffusion, the most successful technology at the time of its construction. In all, the Georges Besse plant will have supplied a quarter of the world’s production of the enriched uranium.
Natural uranium contains only a small amount of the fissile isotope uranium-235. This must be increased to allow the reactivity of the fuel.
The centrifugation is from now on the only process of enrichment used by AREVA.