Depleted uranium, a strategic reserveIn addition to the materials contained in used nuclear fuels (after use in nuclear reactors), depleted uranium, obtained via the process of enrichment of natural uranium (prior to use in nuclear reactors) is also a recyclable material. It can be used to produce low-carbon electricity. Beyond its current means of recycling in Mox fuel, other prospects for recovery include re-enriching it to obtain ENU (enriched natural uranium) fuel which can be used in existing reactors. Depleted uranium may also be able to be reused in fourth-generation reactors.
Today, it constitutes a strategic reserve which may be considered to a "domestic mining resource" (300,000 metric tons): a major asset for France. This volume corresponds to around 60,000 metric tons of natural uranium, or around 7 to 8 years of annual consumption of uranium for the existing French nuclear fleet.
Disposal of high-level waste: the CIGEO solution
Andra is responsible for managing existing disposal centers and conducting studies on geological disposal for high-level and long-lived intermediate-level waste. CIGEO, located at Bure-Saudron (Meuse/Haute-Marne - France), is a geological disposal project. It represents the most sustainable and safest solution for assuming our responsibility to future generations with regard to final waste which is currently in safe interim storage in facilities on the la Hague site.
Management of very low-level waste (VLLW)This is one of the issues at stake for the PNGMDR. Currently, in France, any product that has entered a nuclear zone is considered to be radioactive – regardless of its actual level of radioactivity.
In the rest of Europe, waste is qualified on the basis of its radioactivity: below a certain radioactivity threshold, waste is no longer considered to be radioactive.
With a strong demand in society to develop the circular economy, the recycling of very low-level metal waste could for example be envisaged. This new approach, implemented taking all the necessary precautions, would not only allow savings to be made on raw materials but also enable the volume of waste for disposal to be reduced.
Example 150,000 metric tons of metal from the dismantling of diffusers from the old Georges Besse 1 enrichment plant, which was shut down in June 2012, are VLL materials that can be reused.