A new plant for Uranium transformation, the most modern in the world ! Back on an inauguration day.

On September 10, Delphine Gény-Stephann, Secretary of State to the Minister for the Economy and Finance, accompanied by Philippe Varin, Chairman of the Executive Board of the Orano Group, and Philippe Knoche, Orano CEO, inaugurated the new Philippe Coste uranium conversion plant at the Orano Tricastin site. The event was attended by 60 international clients of the group, representatives of French and European administrations, parliamentarians, elected officials and local stakeholders, who came to celebrate this industrial and technological jewel, a showcase for French know-how in the nuclear sector.

Inauguration usine Philippe Coste, 10 septembre 2018.  Delphine Gény-Stephann coupant le ruban en présence de Phillippe Varin et Philippe Knoche Inauguration of Philippe Coste plant. September 10, 2018. Delphine Gény-Stephann cutting the ribbon with Philippe Varin and Philippe Knoche. © Cedric Delestrade

A major industrial investment for Orano

In order to guarantee a reliable and predictable source of supply for our customers, while fully meeting requirements in terms of safety and the environment, Orano decided to both renovate the workshops at the Malvési site (Aude), which perform the first stage of uranium transformation, and build a new plant at the Tricastin site for the second stage of uranium transformation. The result is a fully renovated and modernized industrial facility, which represents an investment of more than 1.1 billion euros, 850 million of which was spent on the Philippe Coste plant at the Tricastin site alone. Including the new Georges Besse II enrichment plant, this amounts to more than 5 billion euros of investment made at the Orano Tricastin industrial site. This is the biggest industrial investment made in France in recent years and the group takes great pride in continuing to invest in France. Orano is the first manufacturer in the world to renew its conversion plants, thereby achieving a decisive competitive advantage.

Tricastin, usine Philippe Coste, vue générale, 2018 Tricastin, Philippe Coste plant, full view, 2018 © Eric Larrayadieu
"You can be proud of this plant, which completes the modernization of our capacities in the front end of the fuel cycle. We can never overstate the degree to which our excellence in the fuel cycle is a key asset of the French nuclear industry, which is an industry of vital importance for our country – the third largest French industry, with 220,000 jobs, global champions like Orano and skills that are admired across the globe."

Delphine Gény-Stephann, Secretary of State to the Minister for the Economy and Finance

A fantastic human adventure – made in France

The highest possible level of safety and a reduction in environmental footprint have been major priorities in the design of COMURHEX II. It is an extraordinary project that has mobilized the best of the expertise within our Orano Chemistry and Enrichment and Orano Projects teams. It is also an industrial project on a huge scale, brought to fruition by the people in the group and supported by the national and local economic infrastructure. It has involved more than 240 companies, 99% of which were French, with the vast majority from the local region. The worksite involved as many as 700 people at its peak, with high standards of occupational safety.

An industrial complex unique in Europe

With the Malvési, Philippe Coste and Georges Besse II facilities, Orano has the most modern and high-performance conversion and enrichment equipment in the world. This industrial complex is unique in Europe: unique due to its size (more than 650 hectares), unique due to the number of jobs and benefits created (more than 4500 highly qualified direct and indirect jobs, nearly 200 million euros in purchasing each year, two thirds of which stays within the region) and unique due to the number of customers it can serve (currently more than 60 customers worldwide). Its new Philippe Coste conversion plant, which meets the highest standards in terms of safety, industrial performance and environmental performance, makes the group the biggest player in the western world, with more than 25% of global production capacity. This gives France and the European Union access to an industrial facility that guarantees their independence in terms of uranium transformation.

Did you know?

Just like Georges Besse, Philippe Coste was a French industrialist, the first founding president of the Comurhex company. He was responsible for technical advances in the electrolysis of fluorine on an industrial scale.

tonnes per year – the production capacity after ramp-up of the Philippe Coste plant
10 years
An order book for our conversion and enrichment activities covering the next 10 years and beyond
100 M€
Additional investments of around 100 million euros per year over the next 10 years to further develop the facilities and ensure their longevity

90 million households supplied with low-carbon energy thanks to the Philippe Coste and Georges Besse II plans, equivalent to all the households in France, Germany and the UK.

"360" special issue for the inauguration of the Philippe Coste plant
"360" special issue for the inauguration of the Philippe Coste plant © Orano
Antoine Troesch, SEVP of the Chemistry - Enrichment BU, and Patrick Jacq, Projects BU SEVP
© Orano
Comurhex II - Invest for the future
© Orano

Find out more…

The COMURHEX II project, launched in 2006, involved renovating three workshops responsible for the first stage of uranium transformation at the Orano Malvési site (the new facilities have been fully operational since June 2016), and building, at the Orano Tricastin site, a new plant to replace the old COMURHEX I plant, which ceased production in December 2017. More than 450,000 tonnes of UF6 have been produced over a period of more than 50 years, equivalent to a year of global electricity consumption for all sources of energy (24,000 TWh) and representing savings of the same amount of CO2.

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