Nuclear fuel : AREVA is a leading market player
All manufacturing is done in-house, including manufacturing of zirconium components. Consequently, the Fuel Business Unit organization reflects our activities.
The industrial footprint is split into two main manufacturing divisions:
– the Zirconium division (CEZUS) counting 5 sites in France (Jarrie, Montreuil Juigné, Paimboeuf, Rugles, Ugine), 1 site in Germany (Duisburg) and 2 Joint Ventures in Japan (Zircoproducts) & China (CNNC AREVA Shanghai Tubing Co Ltd),
– the Fuel Manufacturing division, counting several sites (USA-Richland, France-Romans & Pierrelatte, Belgium-Dessel, Germany-Lingen & Karlstein) and one Joint Venture in Japan, MNF (Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel Co.).
A strong engineering expertise has also been developed within the Fuel BU to support design development & performance, operating license applications, and fuel inspection and reparations. This performance is achieved thanks to the strong and daily involvement of our 4,500 employees!
Who are your main customers and suppliers? Could you give us a view on your production, the quantity of fuel produced?
MB – AREVA is a leading market player. The Fuel BU provides products and associated services to utilities in Europe, in the USA and in Asia (partly through our joint venture MNF). At the end of 2011, 124 of the world’s 303 operating PWRs and BWRs routinely used AREVA fuel. The group’s market share is approximately 35%. Our customers and suppliers are international players, and our current biggest market in Fuel assemblies is the European market, even if we plan to strongly grow in Asia.
AREVA is the world leader in producing zirconium for nuclear applications, with a 30% market share for structural tubing and a 35% share for zirconium sponge. Our perspectives in 2014 are targeting Asia and especially China. China will be one of our first markets, mainly through cooperation. More and more power plants are put on line in China, where we provide fuel assemblies and components for manufacturing fuel assemblies. In volume, this market share represents 2000 tons/year including UO2, MOX, and ERU from recycling activities.
Could you tell us more about the “Fuel Excellence Plan”, the BU performance plan, in which context has it been created and what are today the results of this plan?
MB – The initial trigger event was the number of quality events in core leading to a low level of confidence among our customers. The Fuel Excellence plan is a management tool with objectives, milestones, actions, deadlines and follow-up based on strong commitments. The ambition of this plan is to make the BU the global reference provider of Fuel products and services for PWR and BWR customers, in terms of quality, performance, and responsiveness. The Fuel Excellence Plan has been successful and achieved major milestones.
Since 2009, the situation has strongly improved regarding quality events – We have no more leakers in the US!!! – and occupational safety. We have increased our product value through services and performance. The organization has also been modified in order to focus on the product and quality management. Finally, the manufacturing capacity is being adapted to the structural changes of the fuel market. Of course, our plan is fully integrated into the performance plan of the group, “ACTION 2016” with the same priority to provide our customers with safe and reliable solutions in time and ensure our future competitiveness.
Does the event of Fukushima have a consequence on your activity in terms of safety?
MB – Yes and no… Yes, because today at Fuel we are more than ever questioning ourselves with the objective to always find new sources of improvement. Our top priority is safety in our plants as nuclear operator and the safety/reliability provided by our products in reactor. No, because safety of our fuel was already a major concern for us. All group employees commit themselves to: • a scrupulous respect of the procedures required by their activities, • full transparency to authorities and stakeholders, • formally declare, analyze and take corrective actions in depth on any discrepancies. The energy, skills and professionalism of each employee, throughout the group, contributes to the quick detection of potential points of weakness or failure. This is achieved by promoting preventive actions across all domains, particularly regarding nuclear safety, health, occupational safety, and environmental preservation.
In order to conclude, could you give a message for the nuclear young generation? If you were today a young engineer at the Fuel BU/in the nuclear industry, where would you see perspectives?
MB – The nuclear sector is both a very fascinating and highly challenging technical environment. And more specifically, the Fuel business offers a wide range of disciplines like engineering, services or manufacturing. There is a need to be innovative and quick, but at the same time, thoroughly mitigate risks and work on long-term development. The Fuel business is a small, highly competitive business within the global nuclear sector but it is at the core and key to supply reliable energy. Another challenge is the public acceptance. We have to be honest, constructive and pro-active to explain what we do in order to gain the trust in nuclear. So there is great opportunity as an individual to grow by developing technical skills within the work environment and leadership and confidence in contact with the public.