Reprocessing: managing the end of the contracts
The reprocessing of irradiated fuels at La Hague
makes France the worlds largest producer of "civilian"
plutonium, with 1,562 tons reprocessed in 1999 for a cumulative total
on December 31, 1999 of 15,098 tons of light water reactor fuel, which
represents around 130 tons of plutonium separated since the beginning
of light water fuel processing in 1976.
The distribution of reprocessed fuels among COGEMAs
customers continues its slow progress in favor of EDF, as the La Hague
plants approach the completion of their foreign contracts. In 1999,
the share of foreign fuels still amounted to 56% of the total light
water fuel reprocessed in La Hague since the beginning of operation,
and 46.5% of the total reprocessed that year (see the following table).
Status of contracts for reprocessing
light water reactor fuels at La Hague
(in metric tons of heavy metal, as of 31 December 1999)
the year 1999
| 5,779 *
| 390 *
* includes so-called post-2000 contracts, or 1,024 tons for
Germany (according to GNS, less than the figure given by some
German utilities), 165 t. for the Netherlands.
© WISE-Paris Source:COGEMA,
However, the La Hague plant may see the end of its
foreign fuels reprocessing in 2002 if there is no new contract to support
the French plutonium industry. In fact, the reprocessing of foreign
fuels could end in 2001 if Germany, as a result of the agreement to
halt reprocessing, signed June 15, 2000, between the Government and
the electricity companies, canceled part of its so-called "post-2000"
contracts. At present, by themselves, they constitute the major part
of the foreign activity of COGEMA as of 2001. A recent Australian contract
changes nothing. It is for 1,300 research reactor fuel assemblies (MTR,
Material Testing Reactor), but it involves only 3.8 tons, a negligible
quantity compared to the 1,600 tons per year processed on average each
year for the last five years. Information about possible supplementary
contracts with Japanese utilities is still to be confirmed, and in any
case, they involve only a quantity of about 600 tons spread out over
several years. Nor does EDF itself foresee any increase in the amounts
reprocessed after 2001 when its present contract ends.
The request by COGEMA to increase the capacity of
the UP2-800 and UP3 plants to 1,000 tons/year, without, however, increasing
the authorized cumulative throughput of 1,700 tons/year, which was up
for public inquiry earlier in 2000 (see hereunder), seems all the more
strange in view of the limited existing and potential further contracts.
In reality, COGEMA is preparing for the closing of one of its plants
at La Hague. It is banking on the hypothesis that EDF will be obligated
by the Government to maintain reprocessing at the level of some 850
tons/year. The 150 tons of supplementary capacity per plant would allow
it to meet the few foreign contracts remaining for a few more years.
be continued (Public Inquiries at La Hague License Guaranteed)