Orano inaugurates new innovation centre at former uranium mining site

24 September 2021

French Prime Minister Jean Castex has inaugurated Orano’s new Centre for Innovation in Extractive Metallurgy (CIME) at the Bessines-sur-Gartempe site in the New Aquitaine region.

This new facility, which represents an investment of more than €30 million, will enable the Group to benefit from a cutting-edge environment to further intensify its support for its customers and to continue its diversification around innovative projects in the fields of energy transition and the circular economy, Orano said.

CIME was formed in 2018 through the renaming of Orano's Research, Processes and Analyses Department (Service Etudes de Procédés et Analyses, SEPA) at Bessines-sur-Gartempe, which had been a uranium mining and processing site  since 1980. Orano CEO Philippe Knoche said investment in the new innovation centre “enabled us to definitively transform a former mining site into a technological centre of excellence, with all the backing of the Orano group's skills in industrial, mining and medical research”.

CIME will also serve to host industrial pilot tests for Orano projects under development, in particular for the recycling and recovery of radioactive and non-radioactive materials.  Two industrial pilots will be deployed on the site to test the recycling process for materials contained in electric vehicle batteries. This project received support from France Relance totalling €6.1 million, and from the Nouvelle Aquitaine region. 

Construction of the 8300-square-metre facility started in March 2019, and it was commissioned on 17 May this year. The facility consists of a 1000-square-metre pilot hall, and numerous laboratories equipped with hundreds of containment elements such as fume hoods and extraction arms. The building meets safety and radiation protection standards, most notably with the implementation of numerous air treatment and containment systems for high-risk areas.

CIME is one of the Group's main R&D centres and its inauguration marked an important step in the modernisation of Orano's industrial assets. Claude Imauven, Chairman of Orano's Board of Directors, said: "The CIME lies at the heart of the industrial fabric of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region and we are proud of our longstanding regional presence. The sites and plants of our nuclear industry are a great asset for enabling an industrial and economic revival in keeping with today’s climate objectives."  

CIME is developing processes for the treatment of wastewater - including from mines - taking environmental quality standards into account, from the laboratory phase through to the semi-industrial pilot and industrialised water treatment solution. Two industrial pilots will be deployed on the site to test the recycling process for materials contained in electric vehicle batteries.  

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