France looks into increasing uranium enrichment capacity

10 October 2022

The French National Commission for Public Debate (CNDP) has announced it is relaunching a consultation on the Georges Besse II uranium enrichment plant to consider increasing the plant's capacity from 7.5 to 11 million SWU per year.

Georges Besse II (Image: Orano)

A public debate on Orano's Georges Besse II plant - a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant built to replace the former Georges Besse I gaseous diffusion plant at Tricastin in the south of France - ended in 2004. The earlier debate had already allowed for the possibility of increasing the plant's capacity to 11 million SWU, but the CNDP said that the "factual circumstances" justifying any increase have changed substantially since then.

Announcing its decision to reopen the debate, the CNDP said it had received a letter from Orano CEO Philippe Knoche asking for it to decide on the terms for the follow-up public participation. The CNDP noted that more than five years has passed since the closing date of the earlier public debate. It also cited a public consultation on energy announced by the French government, and the desire to increase uranium enrichment capacities due to the sanctions linked to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia that could lead to a shortage nuclear fuels, as changes since the previous debate.

The project would involve the creation of four additional natural uranium enrichment cascades at a location to the north of one of the plant's existing units.  The approximate cost is estimated at EUR 1.3 billion (USD970 million), CNDP said.

The CNDP is an independent body in charge of guaranteeing the French public the "right to debate" on projects or policies with an impact on the environment, a right which is enshrined under France's Charter for the Environment. The commission determines, for each project, the form public participation should take - a public debate, independently organised and managed by the CNDP; or a consultation carried out by the project manager, in which case the CNDP appoints guarantors to ensure that the right to information and participation is respected. CNDP consultation is mandatory for large projects. The outcome of all consultations or debates are made public.

The Georges Besse II enrichment plant was officially opened in December 2010 and began commercial operation in April 2011.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News