Drastic times call for drastic measures. This can be seen in how France’s government seeks viable and sustainable solutions to the ongoing fuel and energy crisis. The country’s National Commission for Public Debate (CNDP) is set to restart a discussion previously settled over a decade ago. Specifically, the debate focuses on increasing the capacity of one of France’s primary uranium enrichment plants.
The plant in question is the Georges Besse II enrichment plant. It originally opened in late 2010 and commenced operations in April of the following year. Currently, the plant’s operating capacity is set at 7.5 million SWU per annum. The government hopes to increase this amount to around 11 million if discussions push through.
According to a statement from the CNDP regarding the possibility of resumed talks, the Commission recently received a request from Philippe Knoch, CEO of Orano. Orano manages and operates the Georges Brasse II plant. The Commission has asked it to finalize terms regarding the upcoming public discussion.
As it cited that over five years have passed since the closing date of the original discussion held in 2004, the Commission also reminded those contemplating participation that the national government previously called for a public consultation regarding the energy crisis.
The CNDP ensures the French populace’s right to debate projects and policies with potential environmental impact. It determines what form of public participation is best for the discussion of specific issues while ensuring that the right to both information and participation is respected by all parties concerned. This is done through the appointment of guarantors for each event and the fact that all outcomes are made public.
A Drastic But Necessary Move
While France is currently pushing for the continued use of nuclear power plants which, by rights, should already be closed down due to age, it is also suffering from the impact that the Russian invasion of Ukraine had on the global fuel supply.
As a result, the country is contemplating the expansion of its current uranium enrichment capacity to make up for the shortfall in nuclear fuels caused by supply restrictions and import embargoes against Russia.
If the matter passes following the public debate, the expansion will lead to the creation of an additional four natural uranium enrichment cascades in an area to the north of one of the Georges Besse II’s existing units. The endeavor is expected to cost around $970 million.