In France, nuclear energy was developed largely at Marcoule. The French government chose this site in 1955 to build the nuclear reactors used to produce plutonium for the atomic bomb as well as the first plutonium recycling plant. It is also here that the CEA developed the graphite gas reactor technology used in the first generation of French nuclear reactors. And it is at the Marcoule site that the second fast neutron reactor, Phénix, was built in 1973 and operated until 2010. Today, most of these facilities are shut down, but they continue to play a crucial role in the future of nuclear power.
That’s because, over time, Marcoule has become a veritable dismantling laboratory. The highly complex operations in progress constantly call for the invention of new processes and technologies that will simplify the dismantling of all types of nuclear facilities in the future.
“ Our continued collaboration with the CEA at Marcoule is a solid foundation for developing our dismantling know-how. The CEA center at Marcoule is currently hosting some of the world’s most important dismantling projects – in which Orano will continue to be fully involved – and represents a melting pot for innovation in this segment. “
Alain Vandercruyssen, Director of Orano Dismantling and Services
“ RIANA is a motor-driven platform that can easily accommodate different modules, depending on the work required. This ability to adapt limits the amount of time operators are present in radioactive areas and allows the site to be mapped more precisely, all of which leads to optimization of dismantling operations. ”
Daniel Kanaan, Project Manager at Orano
Is dismantling only an issue for nuclear power plants?
No, far from it! In France, some 30 facilities are undergoing or awaiting dismantling and decommissioning following their final shutdown, including 9 nuclear reactors. The majority of the dismantling projects underway involve workshops and plants belonging to the nuclear fuel fabrication cycle and research facilities.
At the end of the dismantling-decommissioning
process, are we back to a green-field site situation?
Most of the facilities being dismantled at the moment are located on sites that have other facilities still in operation. Buildings decontaminated in the course of a decommissioning project could certainly accommodate a new industrial activity in the future, rather than being demolished.
Do we have to consider the dismantling-decommissioning costs to be a financial “black hole”?
In France, funding for the decommissioning of a nuclear facility is planned in from the outset and then revised on a regular basis. For example, for a power plant, it is factored into the production cost of the electricity. It has been estimated that a doubling of decommissioning costs compared to initial estimates would only affect the cost of nuclear electricity by 5%. Today, the French nuclear operators (CEA, EDF, Orano) have provisioned over € 30 billion to meet their decommissioning commitments.
Pacman is not only the name of a video game. It is also the name given to an ingenious process designed by Orano to devour old sections of piping that have been used to circulate nuclear materials. Pacman is a kind of mobile enclosure that moves along, “eating up” sections of piping - in fact cutting up pipework ranging from 2 to 7 cm in diameter as it goes.
Charli and Eloïse
Charli has the tough job of supporting us with cutting operations carried out on the internals of nuclear reactors using sodium. Special features - Charli is able to perform laser cutting operations directly inside the reactor
vessel. With his special arm equipped with a laser cutting head and an array of cameras, Charli is a super agile robot, at home in the most confined of spaces. This is a robot who knows no fear and will happily work in irradiated environments and at high