Orano approves Georges Besse II extension

24 October 2023

The Board of Directors of France’s Orano has approved investment for the project to extend the production capacity of the Georges Besse II (GB-II) uranium enrichment plant on the Tricastin site (Drôme et Vaucluse). With a projected investment of €1.7bn ($1.8bn), this will enable Orano to increase production capacities by more than 30%, corresponding to 2.5m SWU (separative work units).

The project consists of building a further four modules identical to the 14 existing modules with the same technology and with a reduced environmental footprint. During the construction phase, the project will mobilise up to 1,000 people, with a large proportion of those involved being from companies based in the region.

Claude Imauven, Orano Board Chairman, said the purpose was to strengthen Western energy sovereignty in France. “Orano's decision responds to requirements expressed by our customers to strengthen their security of supply with production expected to start up as of 2028". François Lurin, Senior Executive Vice President for Chemistry-Enrichment Activities thanked Orano’s customers. He underlined the importance of the support of the Japan France Enrichment Investing consortium, and Korea Hydro &Nuclear Power shareholders in the Tricastin enrichment company SETH (Société d’Enrichissement du Tricastin Holding).

The GB-II gas centrifuge enrichment plant, which replaced the ageing Georges Besse I gaseous diffusion enrichment plant, was opened in December 2010 and began commercial operation in April 2011. In October 2022, Orano said it had decided to increase its production capacity by 30%, which could involve an extension of the GB-II plant. The National Commission for Public Debate (CNDP - Commission Nationale du Débat Public) then announced that it was relaunching a consultation on GB-II expansion. The cost of the project was then estimated at €1.3bn. Construction of GB-II, had previously been the subject of a public debate in 2004, which considered increasing the plant's capacities from the planned 7.5m to 11m SWU. Currently GB-II is running at full capacity to produce 7.5m SWU.

Image: The Georges Besse II uranium enrichment plant at Tricastin (courtesy of Orano)

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