ASN delivers its opinion on the overall consistency of the nuclear fuel cycle in France
The "nuclear fuel cycle" comprises the fabrication of the nuclear fuel used in the nuclear power plant reactors, its storage and its reprocessing after irradiation. Several licensees are involved in the cycle: Orano Cycle, Framatome, EDF and Andra.
ASN monitors the overall consistency of the industrial choices made concerning fuel management which could have an impact on safety. In this context, ASN periodically asks EDF to submit a "Cycle Impact" file prepared jointly with the fuel cycle players, presenting the consequences for each step of the fuel cycle of EDF's strategy for using the different types of fuel in its nuclear reactors.
In June 2016, at the request of ASN, EDF submitted the "2016 Cycle Impact" file for the 2016-2030 period, prepared in collaboration with Framatome, Orano Cycle and Andra and considering several scenarios for the development of the energy mix. On 18 October 2018, ASN delivered its opinion after completing its review of this file.
ASN considers that the "2016 Cycle Impact" file provides a satisfactory overview of the consequences of the various nuclear fuel cycle development scenarios on the nuclear facilities, transport operations and waste management. However, the consequences of contingencies that could affect the fuel cycle must be examined in greater depth.
ASN underlines the need to anticipate any strategic change in the functioning of the fuel cycle by at least ten years so that it can be designed and carried out under controlled conditions of safety and radiation protection. It is a question, for example, of ensuring that - given the incompressible development times for industrial projects - the needs for new spent fuel storage facilities or for new transport packaging designs are addressed sufficiently early.
It emerges in particular that to avoid reaching the maximum capacity of existing storage facilities too quickly (spent fuel pools at NPPs and at La Hague facilities), the proportion of electricity produced from reactors using MOX fuel and that produced from reactors using enriched natural uranium (ENU) must be maintained at or above the current levels for the next decade to ensure that all the spent ENU fuel is reprocessed.
In the longer term it will be necessary either to have new storage capacities that are significantly greater than the current and projected capacities, or to be able to use MOX fuel in reactors other than the 900 MWe reactors, which are the oldest. The time frame required for the design and production of these options is about ten years. ASN therefore asks the industrial players to start examining these two options without delay.
The Government is currently preparing the "multi-annual energy plan" (MEP), which is updated every five years. The functioning of the nuclear fuel cycle could evolve according to the orientations of this plan. ASN therefore asks the industrial players to study the consequences, in terms of safety and radiation protection, of the MEP on the nuclear fuel cycle and its coherence at each MEP revision.