While France is planning its nuclear future with the arrival of new technologies, the nuclear fleet is now facing an “immediate dismantling” process. Out of a total of 140 reactors, 15 have already been dismantled and 45 are in progress. This renewal engages new private companies in the investment race.
While the global dismantling market is estimated at around 220 billion euros, the French market represents a significant share of 650 million euros per year. Orano Démantèlement et Service (ODS) is a private player with a strong presence in the dismantling market, with 45% of its investment.
Although this activity is booming, the energy transition will only amplify this considerable increase in the coming decades, specifically in France. 60 billion to dismantle its 58 operating reactors and 9 reactors undergoing decommissioning and to manage its waste.
“We are the market leader in nuclear dismantling in France, with a 45% share of the market and annual sales of around 650 million euros,” says Alain Vandercruyssen, Director of Areva Dismantling and Services.
The maturity of the French nuclear industry is the main factor behind the global presence of French companies in the dismantling field. For example, Fressenheim was the first reactor in the Haut-Rhin region from 1977 to February 2023.
Moreover, France’s investments in innovations and new technologies through partnerships between the CEA (Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique) and private companies only enhance France’s expertise in this sector. For example, in 2010, the dismantling of the Superphénix site in Isère was a technical feat. Indeed, 6,000 m3 of sodium were extracted from the reactor to be transformed into soda before being finally captured in concrete.
ONET Technologies, a leading company in nuclear dismantling in France, has also designed new remotely operated nuclear dismantling equipment from the Saint-Etienne Industrial Campus, called the MAR 200 dissolver. This robotic technology significantly reduces the risk of contamination for operators. It costs between 4 and 5 million euros.
In terms of new technologies, we can also mention the EPR (Evolutionary Power Reactor), which is a high-power electricity production system. It is a new technology reactor classified by the CEA as a 3rd generation reactor meeting safety standards. The EPR is specially designed to replace the 2nd generation reactors for a 60-year life span. However, the EPR construction site in Flamanville alone has encountered enormous problems of delay and expense. Initially planned for 2012 with an estimate of 3 billion euros, its commissioning has been postponed to the end of 2022 at a cost of 12.7 billion dollars.
This new activity is an opportunity to demonstrate their know-how in order to win contracts abroad (Germany, Japan, United States, etc.). Several players are involved in the nuclear dismantling market.
– Framatome (formerly Areva): which designed the EPR
– Competing companies that design reactors able to compete with the EPRs of advanced versions of their reactors such as: Rosatom’s VVER 1200 and General Electric’s ABWR.
– The companies Suez and Veolia are specialized in the treatment of non-radioactive nuclear waste, which represents the majority of waste after dismantling. Thanks to this expertise, the two companies have been able to demonstrate their expertise to international clients (Japan, Germany, the United States and Great Britain).
– As far as radioactive materials are concerned, the French company Orano (formerly Areva) offers expertise in this field and is among the world leaders in this market.
– Start-ups such as Oreka Solutions are also entering this highly competitive global market. In just a few years, Oreka Solutions has established itself as one of the most effective solutions for planning decommissioning sites.
The market of the renewal of the French nuclear fleet has a very promising future. It offers indeed the opportunity to several start-ups and companies to insert themselves in this market in terms of innovations or new technologies.
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