France - Plutonium Investigation n°1

Fabrication of MOX Fuel

France has two operating MOX fabrication plants. The first one is the Cadarache plant, operated by the CEA. It has produced MOX fuel for FBRs as well as LWRs. The Cadarache plant produced 32 tonnes of MOX fuel for LWRs in 1995, and the CEA is aiming at an annual production of 35 tonnes. The Cadarache plant was recently qualified to produce MOX fuel for German PWRs, and will be operated during the coming years almost exclusively for German customers. Logically, the former director of the Hanau MOX plant in Germany was appointed director of the Cadarache plant. Neither the German population, nor the Government of the Land of Hesse, wanted such a plant. The German nuclear industry chose to export the corresponding risk to France.

The other plant is the Melox plant at Marcoule, which was first operated in 1994. The Melox plant is licensed to produce 100 tonnes of MOX fuel for LWRs. In fact, the Melox plant was designed to produce MOX fuel only for PWRs, since EDF only operates this type of LWR. At the beginning of 1996 Melox requested authorisation from the safety authorities to add a workshop to the plant in order to produce MOX fuel for BWRs to satisfy the MOX fuel needs of foreign utilities. Melox is also planning to request another license to double its production capacity. Ms. Dominique Voynet, Minister of the Environment, declared that she is opposed to any enlargement of the plant for export: "I will not sign any Bill for the extension of the plant to produce more and export"*. At the end of 1996, the Melox plant had produced only 80 tonnes of MOX fuel. During the first six months of 1997, production however reached 45 tonnes.

* Politis, 18 September 997

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