French reactor firm Framatome has entered a deal to design, manufacture and supply fuel assemblies made from enriched reprocessed uranium (ERU) to utility firm EDF between 2023 and 2032.
Framatome has noted that the collaboration is subject to administrative and regulatory authorisations.
The reactor firm is to fabricate the fuel assemblies at its facility in the Drôme region of France, in a process that will see the use of uranium created during the reprocessing of used fuel at the La Hague plant.
Once enriched, the ERU can be used to fuel nuclear power reactors and will be distributed amongst a number of EDF reactors authorised to use it.
EDF has also announced plans to store the reprocessed uranium for up to 250 years, acting as a strategic reserve. Currently, reprocessing 1,100t of EDF’s spent fuel produces 11t of plutonium, with 1,045t converted into stable oxide form for storage.
Framatome Fuel business unit senior vice-president Lionel Gaiffe said the partnership evidenced “proof of the quality of Framatome’s industrial solutions and capabilities”.
EDF has been attempting to integrate reprocessed uranium into its facilities for a number of years, having first experimented with recycling it in pressurised water reactors in the early 1980s. Additionally, the very first campaign for ERU manufacturing took place in 1987 on behalf of EDF.
Between 1987 and 1990, precursor fuel assemblies were loaded into EDF’s Cruas Unit 4, with the same reactor introducing the first ERU fuel reload in 1994.
The ability to reprocess waste nuclear fuel for power plants is unique to nuclear energy. A number of countries, including Russia, China and Japan, have introduced policies for reuse, though many continue to perceive it as waste rather than a resource.
According to the World Nuclear Association, around 100,000t of used fuel from commercial power reactors has been reprocessed thus far. The group has also estimated that between the years 2010 and 2030, roughly 400,000t of waste fuel will be generated globally, with 60,000t from North America and 69,000t from Europe.