FACT OF THE DAY At Orano Tricastin, future investments and a school of professions to prepare for the future

The vocational school’s project has been launched at Orano Tricastin since early 2021. At each session there is a trainer and an intern. (Marie Meunier / Objective Gard)

The Orano Tricastin site has been managed by François Lurin for six months. The one who made a career in auditing and consulting and for whom nuclear energy was not” a predestined playground“, joined the group in 2008. He inventoried the current context, the group’s projects and the challenges that arise.

Today, more than 4,000 people work for Orano Tricastin or for service providers on the site, which covers 650 hectares between Drôme and Vaucluse, just a few kilometers from Pont-Saint-Esprit and the Rhône-Gard. The industrial platform carries out chemistry activities (conversion, defluorination and denitration) and uranium enrichment, which precede the final phase of the production of nuclear fuel assemblies for reactors in nuclear power plants around the world. On the Orano Tricastin site alone, the enrichment achieved is equivalent to supplying 90 million households. Or the population of France, Germany and the United Kingdom combined.

The business community is dynamic, with many new recruitments every year and a strong learn-work policy. Nuclear energy has been at the center of discussions for some time now. And even more so today in a significant climatic and unstable geopolitical context. The Russian-Ukrainian conflict has has a strong influence on inflation and can persist over time. The question of French energy sovereignty really arisesFrançois Lurin says. Certainly because 20 to 30% of the enrichment of European power plants is supplied by the Russians.

After the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, Orano Tricastin is working on the Georges-Besse II extension to increase production

Over 15 years, 5 billion euros have been invested at the Orano Tricastin site to renew and further secure its industrial conversion and enrichment tool. Its development is far from over. The new Philippe Coste conversion plant is gradually moving towards its nominal capacity, which is 15,000 tons. This year, it must exceed the 11,500-ton mark. On the other hand, the Georges-Besse II enrichment plant has already reached its 100% efficiency of 7.5 MUTS/year (millions of separation units) and is in operation 24 hours a day. This one ” industrial jewel“, as the director calls it, is one of the most modern factories in the western world.

François Lurin has been director of Orano Tricastin for six months. (Marie Meunier / Objective Gard)

The latter is now considering building an extension to this enrichment facility: “ After a few weeks of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, many customers are asking questions about the offer. We have always planned a capacity to expand our enrichment production and we have land north of the factory. “Nothing was recorded today except” we have already started the topic. The reflection is very active. Customer requests are persistent. They will have to make themselves concrete by means of commitments. We cannot commit hundreds of millions of euros without tangible orders. “Once the project has been validated, we have to wait for a horizon of five to seven years.

A school to “train teams in good gestures and good practices”

Orano Tricastin also wants to develop new activities such as the LIS (stable isotope laboratory), with launch planned for mid-2023, the project for the two Fleur buildings planned for the end of the year related to the uranium storage activity, the new AMC2 cylinder maintenance workshop for 2024-2025… The Tricastin site invests between 50 and 100 million euros annually.

But in addition to tools and facilities, the future of the group also lies in ” strengthening the skills of operators to operate the facilities in the best possible way. Performance is linked to the know-how of our teams‘ said the director. It is with this in mind that the school of crafts was founded.

The stakes are even greater when we know that a number of operators will be retiring in the coming years. The business school project started in 2021 and will gradually be rolled out until 2023. The aim is to strengthen and renew the skills of the employees, as close as possible to the operational needs of the activities. † We really want to train the teams in the right gestures and good practices“, says Geneviève Kerboul, the project manager. About twenty field schools have been set up near the facilities.

A project in the same spirit at Orano Melox

By training upstream, once in the zone, operators avoid too much radiological risk. The school sites also integrate advanced technologies such as augmented reality to simulate the wearing and removal of protective equipment and prevent contamination. There is also a digital twin device for process control.

The management invites the employees to come up with a strong proposal, in order to detect weak signals from which other training courses could arise. Always with the aim of “zero accidents”. Nothing has happened since the beginning of the year and management hopes to continue this momentum as the Nuclear Safety Agency (ASN) indicates that safety at Tricastin ” is underway

Thierry Llavero, operational excellence correspondent in Orano’s maintenance department. (Marie Meunier / Objective Gard)

In the same vein as the vocational school in Tricastin, the Orano Melox branch in Marcoule is launching its “Campus of recycling trade”, which again aims to accelerate the mastery and development of critical skills in a process of advanced technology . The investment represents 18.7 million euros and will benefit from state aid of more than 4.5 million euros through the “recovery plan”.

Mary Meunier

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