DOE explores foreign vitrification technology

22 February 2024

Jeff Avery Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Environmental Management (EM) has visited France to learn more about the facilities offered by Orano and the Atomic and Alternative Energy Commission (CEA - Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique et aux Énergies Alternatives. He also met with the French National Radioactive Waste Management Agency (ANDRA - l’Agence Nationale pour la gestion des Déchets RadioActifs).

Avery was accompanied by members of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Clean-up Project. This followed a trip to France in 2023 by EM team members to learn about how France disposes of nuclear waste and to assess how this might be applied to EM’s mission, particularly at the (INL) site. “The US and France have a long history of collaboration dating back to the origins of our country and I am excited about the potential of this visit to continue to solidify our collaborative activities,” Avery said.

In Normandy, the team visited Orano’s Research Hall of Beaumont-Hague, Temis and Orano’s large reprocessing plant in La Hague. La Hague treatment site is a world leader in the field of reprocessing used fuel and serves as a technological model for many countries, as well as a source of continuous innovation.

The EM team visited the Marcoule site in southern France to view CEA’s vitrification pilot facility and met with Science & Technology Institute Director Christophe Joussot-Dubien. EM said this was important for evaluating vitrification capabilities to assess potential applicability for treatment of calcined high-level waste at EM sites, including the INL Site.

EM is also exploring vitrification technology across the US. Avery recently visited the Catholic University of America in Washington DC, which has a cutting-edge laboratory focusing on safe waste immobilisation. In Texas, EM leaders and other experts recently visited Veolia’s GeoMelt Nuclear Waste Vitrification Facility to understand more about possibilities to vitrify legacy waste.

EM believes France’s significant contributions to the radioactive waste management field are of particular interest. These include: the deactivation and decontamination of legacy nuclear sites; decommissioning and dismantling of facilities; remediation, including groundwater and soil; long-term waste management solutions; and workforce development and stakeholder engagement.

EM also has a memorandum of understanding with ANDRA that provides a framework for French-US cooperation in radioactive waste management, including issues relating to repository disposal technologies, geologic and engineering studies, decommissioning approaches, groundwater and soil remediation, and interim storage of used fuel.

“I believe that international partnerships help all of us solve our remaining challenges to environmental clean-up by enabling the sharing of best practices, allowing greater leverage of science resources and providing opportunities to accelerate innovation,” Avery said during a meeting with Orano.

Image: EM Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Jeff Avery is pictured at Orano’s Research Hall of Beaumont-Hague in Normandy, France (courtesy of DOE's Office of Environmental Management)

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