France’s Nuclear Safety Authority considers abandoning the reprocessing of nuclear waste.

ASN is considering abandoning the reprocessing of nuclear waste,  https://reporterre.net/L-ASN-envisage-l-abandon-du-retraitement-des-dechets-nucleaires The director of the Nuclear Safety Authority ( ASN ) described on January 19 the “ fragilities of the fuel cycle and the nuclear fleet ”. It opened up the possibility of eventually stopping the reprocessing of spent fuel, a particularity of French industry.

For the first time, to the knowledge of Reporterre , a nuclear manager in France is openly considering the end of the reprocessing of spent fuel at La Hague (Manche). On Wednesday January 19, during his back-to-school video press conference, Bernard Doroszczuk, Director of the Nuclear Safety Authority ( ASN ), said that this option had to be considered: ” It will be necessary either to provide for the renovation of the installations current if reprocessing is continued ; or anticipate the implementation of alternative solutions for the management of spent fuel, which should be available by 2040, if reprocessing is stopped. »

For the first time, to the knowledge of Reporterre , a nuclear manager in France is openly considering the end of the reprocessing of spent fuel at La Hague (Manche). On Wednesday January 19, during his back-to-school video press conference, Bernard Doroszczuk, Director of the Nuclear Safety Authority ( ASN ), said that this option had to be considered: ” It will be necessary either to provide for the renovation of the installations current if reprocessing is continued ; or anticipate the implementation of alternative solutions for the management of spent fuel, which should be available by 2040, if reprocessing is stopped. »

 spent fuel, it has a whole series. Each poses a difficult management problem: plutonium (we can’t manage to use all the stock), minor actinides, reprocessed uranium, spent Mox, etc. By evoking the end of reprocessing, Mr. Doroszczuk therefore attacks a sacred cow of French nuclearists.
Why this new proposal  ? Because, explained the director of the ASN , ”  a series of events weakens the entire chain of the fuel cycle  ” and several of its links are clogged:


• the pool at the La Hague plant (Manche), in which the spent fuel is currently stored, is reaching saturation  point ;


• Orano’s Melox plant, in which part of the plutonium is recycled to make fuel, says Mox, works very poorly: “  We have too many breakdowns. Last year, we produced between 50 and 60 tonnes while the order book shows 120 tonnes per year ,   Régis Faure, spokesperson for the Orano Melox site , told Usine Nouvelle . Thus, the plutonium accumulates at the entrance, while at the exit, explained Mr. Doroszczuk, ”  these problems that Orano has not mastered lead to the disposal of waste that contains more plutonium than expected.  »  ;

• finally, revealed the director of the ASN , “  the faster-than-expected corrosion of the evaporators at the Orano La Hague plant weakens the reprocessing capacities   .

It therefore recommends anticipating the crisis, and either choosing to continue the reprocessing or to stop it. In both cases, this will involve very substantial investments, which we must think about now.

“  A nuclear accident is always possible  

More generally, the ASN director underlined “  the absolute need to maintain margins so that there is no competition between production needs and safety decisions  ” . Indeed, the nuclear situation is very tense, both currently, with ten reactors shut down, and in the future: it is not at all certain that the reactors will be able to operate beyond fifty years, indicated Mr Doroszczuk. And the sector lacks skills, both to manage the current fleet and its future dismantling and waste management: it would be necessary to “  train 4,000 engineers per year  ” . We are far from it.The director of the ASN of course wants to stay out of the political debate. But it is clear that the “  messages  ” he formulated on January 19 should be carefully listened to and understood by all presidential candidates who believe that nuclear power is the magic answer to climate change. He also repeated throughout his speech the requirement of security. ”  A nuclear accident is always possible ,  ” he said.

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