Areva plans to start construction on a new $12m facility in June at its Richland nuclear fuel manufacturing plant in the USA. The 45-year-old Richland plant, which has been owned by Areva since 2001, has about 600 employees. Last year it manufactured more than 2300 fuel assemblies and more than 92 million fuel pellets. It supplies commercial pressurised water reactors and boiling water reactors.

Over the past 10 years Areva  has spent an average of $7m a year on upgrades to the plant. The new waste uranium recovery facility will replace a 35-year-old facility in one of Areva’s buildings at its Horn Rapids Road plant. It will be attached to an existing building and will have a footprint of about 11,000 square feet, plant manager Ron Land. Its new and upgraded equipment will enhance operator safety and reliability.

The facility will be used to purify uranium material that has picked up contaminants and will continue the current process of using a solvent to separate the uranium from the contaminants. The uranium then is stripped from the solvent and can be reused for nuclear fuel manufacture.  The plant currently undertakes uranium recovery for other parties and will continue to offer the service in the updated facility. Areva is still evaluating bids for a construction contractor for the project and expects the facility to be completed at the end of 2018.