Cadarache Special - Plutonium Investigation n°20

The Cadarache production complex (CFCa)

Created in 1961 as a laboratory and with the purpose of developing manufacturing processes for nuclear fuels containing plutonium, the CFCa soon became an industrial production center. It thus comprises the only "Basic Nuclear Installations" (installations nucléaires de base - INB) used in the fuel cycle on the Cadarache site. Made up of the ATPu (INB n°32) which produces the fuel, and the chemical purification laboratory (LPC - Laboratoire de Purification Chimique, INB n°54) carrying out quality control and processing of waste, the CFCa began to produce fuel in 1962. Although the CFCa is often presented as a COGEMA installation 6, it has in fact belonged to the CEA since its creation. According to the DSIN's Annual Report of 2000, the CEA is at present the legal operator of the ATPu and LPC. However, from the industrial point of view, it is COGEMA that has operated both installations since 1991.

In the list of INBs established by the DSIN, no change has been indicated in the ATPu's or LPC's authorizations since the respective declarations of 27 May 1964 and 8 January 1968, made by the CEA. Decree N°63-1228 of 11 December 1963, which fixes all of the rules applying to INBs, and especially to the regime governing their authorization, nonetheless stipulates that a new authorization is necessary if an INB changes operator. The DSIN justifies this situation by a terminology that distinguishes between the "industrial operator", associated with production, and the "administrative operator" legally responsible for operation in terms of safety. Thus, to date, the CEA remains the "operator" from the point of view of safety, and COGEMA the "industrial operator". This, Mr André-Claude Lacoste agreed, in an interview with Plutonium Investigation, "is not the most desirable situation".

Furthermore, the change of status from laboratory to that of production unit in 1989 — two clearly distinct activities from the legal and safety points of view — does not appear to be covered by a decree.


6 See CEA Cadarache website ( pages on fuel production: "having become the COGEMA-Cadarache establishment in 1991, [the CFCa] has found its place naturally in the COGEMA Group's fuel cycle production installations." Also see DSIN's Contrôle review (April 1996): "CFCa (a COGEMA MOX fuel production installation)."

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