Cruas: Relaunch of the Uranium Reprocessing Sector in France

Cédric Lewandowski, the Director of EDF’s Nuclear and Thermal Park, highlighted “a historic milestone for the relaunch of the uranium reprocessing sector.” On February 5, 2024, Reactor 2 at the Cruas plant was restarted with its first entirely recycled uranium fuel load.

Reprocessed Uranium (RU) is derived from the spent fuel of nuclear reactors after being processed at Orano la Hague. This valuable material can be converted and enriched – becoming Enriched Reprocessed Uranium (ERU) – for recycling in our current reactors. In France, only the four reactors at the Cruas-Meysse plant in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes are certified to use ERU.

“A decade-long effort has been made to revive a uranium reprocessing sector, which was suspended in 2013 (and resumed in 2018), and has just reached a historic milestone,” explains Cédric Lewandowski, Director of EDF’s Nuclear and Thermal Park on LinkedIn. “Indeed, on February 5, 2024, Unit 2 of the Cruas-Meysse plant restarted with the first load of entirely recycled uranium.”

He justifies this choice: “Reprocessing spent fuel to extract the energy-potential material (which constitutes 96% of the spent fuel’s mass composition), namely uranium, for its second use (‘single-recycling’) is a circular economy approach that will save 25% of natural resources in the coming decades. Moreover, this sector emits 30% less CO2 than the natural uranium sector and reduces environmental impact.”

Ramping Up

He explains that EDF’s goal is to be able to reuse RU in certain 1,300 MW reactors by 2027, aiming for over 30% RU usage in the French nuclear fleet by the 2030s. Globally, 75 reactors have used or are currently using RU. In the case of Cruas, Cédric Lewandowski emphasises the commitment of EDF’s teams and those of Framatome for fuel manufacturing and loading.

Historically, the enrichment process, requiring centrifuges solely dedicated to RU, was entrusted to the Rosatom site in Seversk for industrial and economic reasons. However, the new geopolitical situation since the onset of the conflict in Ukraine may lead to a reevaluation of these contracts without difficulty. Several Western entities are capable of constructing facilities dedicated to RU enrichment. ■

Sfen editorial staff

Photo: Cruas power plant – @EDF/Xavier Popy/REA