Production of MOX at the ATPu
The ATPu began producing plutonium fuel in 1962, for
research reactors, then fuel for fast neutron reactors in France (Phénix
and Superphénix), and in the U.K. (Dounreay, Scotland).
With the aim of moving to industrial production of
MOX, and after re-examination of the safety of the facility in 1987
by the safety authority then known as the central safety department
for nuclear installation (SCSIN - Service Central de Sûreté
des Installations Nucléaires) "the authorization to
pursue fuel manufacturing activities" was granted.7
In January 1989, within the framework of this procedure, the SCSIN authorized
and without a decree modifying the INB 8
the use of the ATPu for manufacture of MOX fuel for water-cooled
reactors, stating that "the characteristics of these fuels come [
within the more general envelope established for fuels for fast neutron
Production has diversified since:
Production of fuels for fast neutron reactors continued until 1999.
The last delivery for Superphénix dates from the end of 1996
10, but the ATPu subsequently produced fuel
for the Phénix reactor. The last production runs were in
the years 1998 and 1999 and involved 1.3 tons and 1.2 tons of fuel
respectively. No further runs for Phénix are planned.11
Industrial production of MOX fuel for light-water reactors began
in 1991, with a rapid growth in annual production. The plant doubled
its output in two years, going from 15.3 tons of heavy metal (tHM)
uranium and plutonium in 1993 to 31.6 tHM in 1995. Production has
continued to increase since, reaching 41.4 tHM in 2000.
MOX for light-water reactors was produced mainly for
Germany. According to Mr Philippe Pradel, then Production Manager at
COGEMA's Fuels and Recycling Division,12 EDF used
MOX from Cadarache until 1996. Since then only a few fuel rods have
been occasionally made for the French generating company. It is fair
to say that for several years the ATPu's activity has been entirely
devoted to contracts to supply German operators with MOX.
According to COGEMA (on the CEA-Cadarache website)
the ATPu "has two production lines with an annual capacity that can
reach 35 tons of MOX fuel." According to DSIN, the total capacity
is actually of 45 tons 13. In May 2000, Philippe
Pradel confirmed the existence of the two lines and stated that only
one of them is used to produce MOX for pressurized-water reactors. In
the future, the plant may supply MOX for boiling water reactors, although
this is not planned at present. The second was reserved for manufacture
of fuels for fast neutron reactors and produced fuels for Phénix
7 According to Bulletin Sûreté Nucléaire, n°67,
8 Under the terms of Decree N°63-1228 of 11 December 1963 relative
to INB, a new authorization for a given INB is necessary if "modifications
that could lead to failure to observe conditions previously imposed on
the installation" are made to it.
9 According to Bulletin Sûreté Nucléaire, n°67,
1-2/1989. It is stated that "bringing into service workstations assigned
to the production of mixed plutonium and uranium oxide fuel assemblies
for light-water reactors [
] is authorized", referring to a Telex,
13 January 1989.
10 Probably assemblies meeting special product requirements under the
CAPRA program: COGEMA's 1997 Annual Report indicated that three
experimental assemblies for a fast neutron reactor were supplied in 1996
11 Personal communication from Mr J. E. Saulnier, spokesperson for COGEMA,
1 February 2001
12 Personal communication of 19 May 2000.
13 DSIN communication, 23 May 2000. One line produces MOX fuel for pressurized
water reactors, and has a capacity of 35 t, the other line can produce
an additional 10 t, or alternatively around 1.5 t of fuel for
fast breeder reactors.
be continued (The ATPu and Monitoring of MOX Production)