France signs agreement with Australia on research reactor fuel reprocessing

Mycle Schneider

On 6 July 2018, the French Official Journal published a decree making formal a 23 November 2017 inter-governmental agreement for AREVA NC (now Orano) to reprocess at La Hague spent fuel from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) research reactor OPAL.

The reprocessing of OPAL spent fuel at the La Hague facility is foreseen to occur between January 2019 and 31 December 2034. The ownership of the extracted plutonium and uranium will be transferred to Orano. The plutonium is to be used in a civil reactor.

The reprocessing wastes are to be shipped back to Australia until 31 December 2035, unless the contract is extended for additional quantities of fuel. In that case, the very last date for waste return is 31 December 2040.

The quantity of spent fuel covered under the agreement and contract is "up to 3.6 tons." Under a previous agreement, 0.236 tons of OPAL spent fuel have been reprocessed at La Hague by the end of 2014.

As of the end of 2017, of the 9,970 tons of spent fuel stored in the La Hague spent fuel pools, 99.6 percent was domestic power reactor fuel belonging to √Člectricit√© de France (EDF). The La Hague facilities have a licensed reprocessing capacity of 1,700 tons per year of spent fuel.