French nuclear services and supply company Orana on Thursday announced the testing phase of its new uranium conversion plant at Triscastin in the Rhone Valley had been completed, meaning the plant was now commissioned as an industrial, manufacturing complex.
"The new Philippe Coste conversion plant located at the Orano Tricastin site (Drôme) has now been successfully commissioned following the completion of its test program," the company said in a statement.
Most of the plant's equipment was put through a progressive, ramp-up testing phase to test its manufacturing capacities. The major equipment at the plant, the flame reactor, was commissioned on December 12, 2018.
The facilities still take production slowly and ramp up throughout the next several months until it reaches its rated output of 15,000 tons in 2021. Full capacity is not in the cards until some more new equipment has been added, Orano said.
The company named the new Tricastin plant after the first founding president of Comurhex. Orano, reported the World Nuclear Association in September, has invested more than $5.8 billion in the Tricastin site over the past ten years.
The new plant is said to be safer and more efficient than previous conversion plants. Together with the Georges Besse 2 plant, it is expected that the Comurhex complex will contribute to low carbon electricity benefiting more than 90 million households each year.
Uranium conversion occurs prior to manufacturing nuclear fuel. Enrichment, which is required by most plants, begins by converting uranium in to uranium hexafluoride (UF6), which is a gas. Step one is to refine the uranium to uranium dioxide, which is also used for reactor fuel at plants that do not use enriched uranium fuel. Once converted to UF6, the gas is then enriched to create a fuel with a higher uranium content.
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