During 1996, 77% of the electricity produced in France was generated
by nuclear power. Only one large utility, Electricité de France
(EDF), produces most of the electrical energy generated in France (94%
of the total French production). In 1996 EDF exported 69 TWh, mostly
to Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. EDF is the largest electricity
exporter in Europe. EDF currently operates 56 nuclear reactors of which
a dozen are operated for export (!) Two more are planned to be put into
service by the year 2000 (see map).
France was one of the first countries to develop a civil plutonium
separation capacity, through reprocessing technology originally developed
to produce plutonium for France's military programme. COGEMA operates
today the largest commercial reprocessing plant in the World at La Hague
in Normandy.The first industrial scale reprocessing plant - UP1 - was
built in 1958 at Marcoule. The UP1 plant - UP is a French abbreviation
for plutonium factory - has mainly reprocessed fuel from the first type
of reactors developed in France, magnox reactors.
The CEA began the construction of the La Hague reprocessing plants
in 1960. The first plant to be built at La Hague was the UP2 plant,
which began reprocessing magnox fuel in 1966. UP2 ceased to reprocess
this type of fuel in 1987, after a total of 4,894 tonnes* had been reprocessed.
A complementary facility to reprocess spent fuel from light-water reactors
(LWR)** began operating at La Hague in 1976. The first French pressurised-water
reactors, which were to progressively replace the existing magnox reactors,
were built from 1970 onwards. The first French pressurised-water reactor,
Fessenheim 1, began operaton in 1977.
Another reprocessing plant, UP3, began operating at La Hague in 1990.
This plant, with an 800 tonne per year capacity, was built for foreign
clients: German, Japanese, Belgian, Swiss and Dutch utilities; the building
and first decade operation of the plant was - in principle - completely
prefinanced by these utilities on a cost-plus-fee basis.
The La Hague plants reprocess primarily foreign spent fuel. At the
end of 1990, a total of 2,881 tonnes of spent LWR fuel had been reprocessed
at La Hague, of which, 731 tonnes (only 25%) were from EDF. Nowadays,
the French share of reprocessed spent fuel is larger. At the end of
1996, 10,087 tonnes of LWR spent fuel had been reprocessed, of which,
almost 6,100 tonnes (60%) was of foreign origin.
*All tonnes mentionned in the bulletin are metric tonnes.
** Both Pressurised Water Reactors (PWRs) and Boiling Water Reactors
are LightWater Reactors (LWRs).
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