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Russia has the only plant in the world capable of “recycling” uranium discharged from French nuclear reactors

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Unlike other Eastern European countries, France does not depend on Russia to operate its 18 power stations. Imported natural uranium comes from Niger, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Australia. It can then be converted and enriched in Orano’s facilities at the Malvési (Aude) and Tricastin (Drôme) sites, with the fuels then being manufactured in the factories of the French Framatome or the American Westinghouse.

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But the war in Ukraine, which exposes European and global dependence on the Russian nuclear industry, is not completely without consequences for the French industry. Because today, only one installation makes it possible to “recycle” the uranium resulting from the fuels used in the 56 reactors of the park: the Seversk plant, located in the Tomsk region, in Siberia, which belongs to the Russian group Rosatom.

A final stop of the uranium trade between Paris and Moscow would inevitably have consequences for an already weakened reprocessing sector and could eventually lead to uranium from spent fuel being considered as additional waste to be managed, and not as the material can be reused.

In the past two years, uranium has been sent from France to Russia. The anti-nuclear NGO Greenpeace documented at least five deliveries between January 2021 and January 2022: 11 containers loaded in the port of Le Havre, on February 12, 2021, 20 containers loaded in Dunkirk, on October 29, 2021, and 13 containers in the same port , in November 2021… On September 28, 2022, seven months after the start of the invasion of Ukraine, the organization again revealed the presence of the Russian cargo ship Mikhail Dudin in the port of Dunkirk.

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“The uninterrupted round trips of this freighter between Saint-Petersburg and Dunkirk betray the extent to which the French nuclear industry is trapped in its dependence on Russia, then denounced Pauline Boyer, energy and nuclear transition campaigner for Greenpeace. France must urgently stop all trade in nuclear energy with Russia. » The atom sector is not subject to European sanctions.

Sold contract with Rosatom

The French group Orano, owner of reprocessed uranium (URT) mainly from foreign power plants and bound by a contract signed in 2020 with Rosatom, confirmed that it had carried out “five or six deliveries” to Russia, for a total volume of 1,150 tonnes. However, the company revealed to the World that this contract has now been settled, with a last transport of uranium having taken place in October 2022. Orano also affirms that it does not plan to sign a new contract with the Russian nuclear giant.

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