During their visit to Orano's La Hague site, Bruno Le Maire and Roland Lescure confirm treatment-recycling strategy beyond 2040

Today, Thursday March 7, 2024, Bruno Le Maire, Minister for the Economy, Finance, Industrial and Digital Sovereignty, and Roland Lescure, Minister Delegate for Industry and Energy, were welcomed to the Orano La Hague site by Nicolas Maes, CEO of Orano and Stéphanie Gaiffe, Director of the site.

This historic visit follows on from the announcements made by the French Nuclear Policy Council (CPN) chaired by the President of the Republic on February 26, which confirmed the main thrusts of French policy on the Back End of the cycle, combining the treatment and reuse of used fuel and prospects for full recycling of materials. In so doing, the CPN laid the foundations for an industrial vision extending through to the end of this century.

In continuity with the CPN, Bruno Le Maire announced, in front of site employees and local elected representatives, the decision to pursue the treatment-recycling strategy beyond 2040 with:

• a sustainability/resilience program extending the life of the plants at La Hague (Manche) and Melox (Gard) beyond 2040,
• the launch of studies for a new MOX fuel fabrication plant at the La Hague site,
• the launch of studies for a new used fuel processing plant, also at the La Hague site, by 2045/2050.

Bruno Le Maire underlined the importance of "the strength of the French nuclear industry, with its mastery of the entire cycle". He went on to say: "A new page in French nuclear history is about to open. The time for large-scale national projects has returned and the nuclear energy sector has a central role to play".

Nicolas Maes: "I am delighted by these announcements, which confirm the broad thrusts of French policy on the Back End of the nuclear fuel cycle, and which provide for major investments for the Orano la Hague site. Processing-recycling is one of the French industry's centers of excellence, representing know-how that has been mastered for some 50 years in our plants and of which all the Group's employees can be proud."

Confirmation of the treatment-recycling strategy beyond 2040 is beneficial for the climate and for the preservation of resources, as well as for the country's current and future energy sovereignty. Treatment-recycling is the safest long-term solution for final nuclear waste. In France, 10% of nuclear electricity is generated by recycling reusable materials in the form of MOX fuel (Mixed Oxide). This rate can rise to 25% and to almost 40% with the multi-recycling of used MOX fuel.

Moreover, this technology significantly reduces the activity and volume of final waste, and enables it to be conditioned in a safe and stable form over the very long term. In the French model, which applies the treatment-recycling strategy, the reusable materials contained in used fuel (uranium and plutonium, i.e. 96% of the total) are separated at La Hague plant, then reused in recycled fuels. Plutonium is reused in MOX fuels manufactured by Orano at its Melox plant.


Picture © Cyril Crespeau 


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