France’s Orano has signed a major contract with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) worth €250 million ($261m) for the transport and the treatment in France of 731 used fuel assemblies from the Fugen reactor in Japan. This follows an Exchange of Notes on 15 June between the French and Japanese governments authorising and framing these transport and treatment operations.

Under the terms of the contract, Orano will continue to carry out all of the technical work required for the shipment of 111 metric tons of material. This will include the provision of a fleet of transport casks that meet national and international nuclear and occupational safety regulations, as well as execution of the sea shipments in conjunction with long-standing partners of proven expertise.

The contract also covers the performance of used fuel treatment and recycling operations at the Orano la Hague plant located in the Manche department (Normandy, France), together with the conditioning of the final waste that will be sent back to Japan. The materials extracted during industrial operations could be recycled to supply low-carbon electricity to the grid in France and Europe. In France, 10% of nuclear-generated electricity comes from recycled materials.

The prototype Fugen Advanced Thermal Reactor (ATR) attained first criticality in 1978 loading 22 mixed oxide (mox) fuel assemblies.

Fugen operated using mox fuel for more than 25 years until 2003 – the first Japanese nuclear plant to close the nuclear fuel cycle. It was a heavy water moderated, boiling light water cooled reactor. It has been undergoing decommissioning since 2018.