France - Plutonium Investigationn°19

The production of MOX

   With the addition of a production line of about 50 tons/year at MELOX, intended to produce MOX for boiling water reactors–necessarily for foreign, primary Japanese clients, since EDF uses only pressurized water reactors–the plant theoretically now possesses a total annual capacity of 165 tons of oxides (COGEMA even indicates a technical capacity of 250 tons/year), but remains limited to an authorized annual production of 115 tons of oxides (around 100 tons of heavy metal), which was reached in 1998. This limitation of annual production has allowed the new Marcoule line, the construction of which was complete even before publication of its permit on 30 July 1999, to avoid having to get around problems and opposition that a new public inquiry (certainly necessary in the case of a production rate increase) could have aroused. It is to be noted that this "true-false" capacity increase was approved by the Minister of the Environment, Dominique Voynet, in July 1999, even though two years earlier she had declared (1): "I would sign no decree for the extension of the plant in order to produce and export more", which, moreover, corresponded to one of the main points of the common Greens-Socialist political text of March 1997. If it is true that the plant does not produce more, it does indeed manufacture fuel for export.

   While EDF is obliged to alternate between MOX and UOX–and to pile up tons of supplementary plutonium–for lack of plutonium fuel, COGEMA chooses to turn to foreign customers. In this context, how can the famous "equality of flow" targeted by the MOX program be realized? In fact, each ton produced at MELOX for Japan or at Cadarache for Germany (whose closing DSIN had demanded, moreover, "soon after 2000") is a ton less produced for EDF–and everyone is satisfied. For EDF is not at all favorable to MOX on principle. Each ton of MOX avoided is a net financial saving for the company obliged to seek savings where it can. Furthermore, Germany and Japan have little, or even no more, capacity for disposal of plutonium or for MOX production.

(1) Dominique Voynet, Politis, 18 September 1997.

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