Cadarache: first decommissioning of a Mox factory

The Mox plant in Cadarache is one of the largest decommissioning projects in the world. At the peak of its activity, this project of unprecedented magnitude simultaneously mobilised up to 300 employees from Orano Decommissioning and Services and its partners. Successfully concluded, it will serve as a reference for similar projects.

Project identity card

Commissioned in 1962, the nuclear fuel fabrication plant of the Commissariat Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in Cadarache was the first of its kind in France. During its 41 years of operation, it first produced fuel for the fast neutron reactor, then MOX fuel for light water reactors.

In 2009, the plant's decommissioning and remediation operations began at two nuclear facilities: the Plutonium Technology Workshops (ATPu) and the Chemical Purification Laboratory (LPC). At the peak of the project, up to 300 employees from Decommissioning and Services and its partners worked simultaneously. After eight years of work, this first decommissioning of a MOX plant ended in early 2017 with benchmark success.


A customised methodology

The deconstruction of the MOX manufacturing plant at the CEA site in Cadarache required the development of specific and innovative solutions. New working methods and technologies were experimented with for this project. In order to optimise the project duration to hte greatest extent possible, Orano treated each site as a production unit in its own right. Each stage of the project was sequenced and streamlined. These innovative methods of industrialising construction sites will be reuseable in the future in the framework of decommissioning projects of the same type.

Remediation of the MOX fuel fabrication facility at the Orano plant in Cadarache. © Philippe Brault / Orano
Remediation of the MOX fuel fabrication facility at the Orano plant in Cadarache. © Philippe Brault / Orano
Plasma cutting in the Volume Reduction Enclosure (ERV) of the ATPU (Plutonium Technology Workshop) building at the Orano plant in Cadarache. © Orano
Glove boxes in cell 12 of the ATPU building (Plutonium Technology Workshop) at the Orano plant in Cadarache. © Eric Larrayadieu / Orano

The stages of an 8-year project

Five major steps were taken to dismantle the plant:

  1. Conducting studies and estimating the needs of the site.
  2. Reducing the volume of each piece of equipment by cutting, including in the most radioactive areas.
  3. Remediation and removal of maximum amount of radioactivity in all previous production workshops.
  4. Conditioning waste for shipment to an accredited storage centre.
  5. Buildings upon return to CEA.
In figures:
In total, Orano employees have cut and conditioned:
- 462 glove boxes,
- 30 tanks,
- 4 km of radioactive piping.
The equivalent of 30,000 drums has been filled.
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