Countries: France

  •  

France is a nuclear weapon state member of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. It has officially declared that it has fewer than 300 nuclear warheads in its arsenal. This number includes operationally deployed warheads as well as warheads in reserve.

France's stock of fissile materials is estimated to be 6 ± 1 tonnes of military plutonium and 31 ± 6 tonnes of HEU (this includes 4.653 tonnes of civilian HEU). Large-scale production of plutonium for military purposes ceased in 1992. France announced the definitive halt of fissile material production for weapons purposes on 22 February 1996 and stopped producing highly enriched uranium by the end of June 1996.

Highly-enriched uranium

France produced highly enriched uranium (HEU) at a dedicated enrichment complex near Pierrelatte at the Tricastin site. HEU production at Pierrelatte ended in late June 1996. The plant was shut down and is being dismantled.

The current stock of military-related weapon-grade HEU is therefore estimated to be 26 ± 6 tonnes. France also has declared a stock of 4,653 kg of civilian HEU, including 3,045 kg of fresh HEU, as of December 2014. Some of this material may have been produced domestically, but a significant fraction is probably of U.S. and Russian origin for use in research-reactor fuel. With this uranium taken into account, the total HEU stock is 31 ± 6 tonnes.

France is operating one commercial uranium enrichment facility - the centrifuge plant Georges Besse II, operated by SET (Société d'enrichissement du Tricastin).

Military plutonium

Large-scale plutonium production for military purposes in France started in 1956 and ceased in 1992. The dedicated plutonium production reactors, graphite-moderated gas-cooled G1, G2, and G3, were located at Marcoule. Also, the fast-neutron reactor Phénix, which went critical in mid-1973 and operated at significant power level until the late 1990s, produced about 340 kg of plutonium for the weapon program. France also operated two dedicated tritium-production Célestin reactors at Marcoule. These reactors, which became operational in 1967 and 1968 and were shut down in December 2009, produced about 700-800 kg of weapon grade plutonium in addition to their main product - tritium. In addition to its dedicated military reactors, France has also used its fleet of gas-graphite power reactors to produce plutonium for military purposes.

The total amount of weapon-grade plutonium produced in France is estimated to be 7±1 tonnes. Nuclear tests conducted by France consumed about one ton of plutonium. The estimate for the current stockpile is therefore about 6±1 tonnes.

Civilian plutonium

France operates two large commercial reprocessing plants - UP2 and UP3 at La Hague. It uses separated plutonium to fabricate MOX fuel that is used in light water reactors. In its most recent declaration submitted to IAEA, France reported owning 61.9 tonnes of separated unirradiated plutonium as of December 31, 2014.