MOX, a fuel assembly made from recycled nuclear fuel

More than 50 years ago, France opted to recycle used nuclear fuel in order to recover nuclear material and thereby reduce the quantity of high level waste and the associated hazards. The nuclear material is reused to make new fuels such as MOX that will in turn can generate more electricity. Orano’s know-how is recognized internationally and is exported around the world.

You said MOX ?


This type of fuel assembly derived from used fuel recycling has already been used to power 44 reactors around the world and is contributing 10 % of the nuclear electricity generated in France. A source of energy for the future: since MOX was first used in France, 18,000 metric tons of natural uranium have been saved, equivalent to over 2 years' consumption by the French nuclear fleet.


Les déchets radioactifs ont plusieurs origines

Did you know

One MOX fuel assembly supplies enough electricity to power all the lighting for a city of 100,000 people for a year

Two industrial sites to process and recycle used fuel


Two Orano plants handle all the used fuel processing and recycling operations needed to serve French and foreign electric utility customers. Located in Normandy, 25 kilometers west of Cherbourg, the La Hague site is equipped to take care of the first stage in the recycling of used fuel from nuclear reactors anywhere in the world. It is the world's foremost industrial complex of its type, handling over 1,000 metric tons of used fuel every year.


The second site, Melox, located in the Gard (southern France), manufactures MOX fuel assemblies to power light water reactors for electricity generation in different countries. Orano Melox is the world's benchmark plant, with some 3,100 metric tons produced since its startup.

Did you know? 

Thanks to Orano’s technologies, which are unique in the world on an industrial scale, 96% of the used nuclear fuel from reactors is recyclable.

Stage 1: Receiving and storing used fuel prior to processing

On arrival at the La Hague site, the fuel is removed from its transport package. The operation is carried out remotely, using automated equipment in rooms with concrete walls 1.20 m thick. After unloading, the fuel remains in a pool under 9m of water, for an average of five years. During this time, the temperature of the fuel reduces and its radioactivity decays naturally.

Stage 2: Separation of components and recovery of re-usable materials


After their stay in the pool, the fuels are sheared before being immersed in a nitric acid solution that dissolves the nuclear material. A chemical workshop separates the recyclable materials from the final, non-usable waste. At the end of these operations, 96% of the material is recyclable. Plutonium and uranium are in turn separated and purified. The plutonium is mixed with depleted uranium to produce new MOX fuel (a mixture of uranium and plutonium oxides).

Increasing the amount of electricity generated from recycled materials 


From 2025, by recycling the uranium contained in used fuel, we will increase the proportion of electricity generated using recycled materials to 25%. This figure could rise to 30% thanks to MOX 2, a new type of fuel resulting from the multi-recycling of nuclear fuels, which will be used initially in pressurized water reactors and later in a new generation of fast neutron reactors.

Saving raw materials through recycling
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