The new Philippe Coste conversion plant at Orano’s Tricastin site (Drôme) in France has now been commissioned following the completion of its test programme.

The plant's process equipment was started up progressively so that the complete manufacturing line could be trialled. The flame reactor, at the heart of the plant, was commissioned on 12 December, Orano said. The facility will ramp up production over the coming months and is expected to reach its rated output of 15,000 tons in 2021, after more new equipment has been installed.

The conversion facility was built as part of the Comurhex II project, which was launched by Orano's predecessor Areva in 2007 and envisaged the construction of the new plant at Malvesi and at Tricastin.

The new conversion facility at Tricastin is named after Philippe Coste, the first founding president of Comurhex, who was responsible for technical advances in fluorine electrolysis on an industrial scale.

The Philippe Coste plant was inaugurated on 10 September, when the first cylinder destined to receive the first product from the facility. Orano says the new facilities will also lead to major savings in terms of water and energy consumption, and reduced effluents.

"The Philippe Coste plant gives Orano a competitive advantage worldwide in the field of uranium conversion, guaranteeing long-term security of supply for our nuclear utility customers," noted Orano CEO Philippe Knoche.