News Archive


NI South East Branch Visit La Hague and Flamanville

On 5th May 2014, I and a group of 16 people with a keen interest in the nuclear industry set sail to Cherbourg, France for a two-day trip to the AREVA La Hague Reprocessing Facility and Flamanville Power Station.

On the first day, the group arrived at the colourful AREVA La Hague site where we were met by the enthusiastic tour guide, Philippe Mundreuil. Some of us went on the trip thinking that we knew absolutely nothing about La Hague and the processes that take place there. But, the tour guide was so good, I felt I returned learning more than I would in an entire week of training elsewhere.

The AREVA La Hague site is the leading centre for industrial recycling of spent nuclear fuel in the world. Located 25km west of Cherbourg, it employs over 6000 people. The site has the capacity for annual processing of spent fuel from 80-100 nuclear reactors and recycles waste from a number of countries around the world.

After a lecture on the background and processes that occur at the reprocessing facility, we dressed in very white personal protective equipment and took a tour of the site. This included seeing the model spent fuel casks, the spent fuel pool, the robotic tools used for chemical and vitrification processes (turning radioactive waste into glass), and finally the waste store for vitrified radioactive waste. I found it very interesting to learn that AREVA are storing used Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel for use with the future Generation V reactors.

On the following day, after an overnight stay at the Marine Hotel in Cherbourg, the group went to the Flamanville. This outing was fantastic, especially seeing the massive pink turbines you'll see in the picture below, and to view Flamanville 3 from a viewing platform.

Turbine Hall Group Pic

Flamanville is home to three PWR (pressurised water reactor) power stations.  Units 1 and 2 have been in operation since 1985 (unit 1) and 1986 (unit 2) and have a combined output of 2600 MWe. Unit 3 is an EPR and is currently under construction. It is due to begin commissioning in 2016 and will have an output of 1600MWe. Hinkley Point C (HPC) in the UK will be based on the same design as that of Flamanville 3.

At the site, EDF gave a talk on the background and operational status of Flamanville 1 and 2 and the progress of Flamanville 3. The group then donned more protective gear and the tour guide took us to the operational Flamanville 1 and 2 units. We saw the turbine hall (with the huge pink turbines -  see group above), the cooling water pumping station, and finished with a visit to  the control room simulator which is used for training operators for both units 1 and 2.

We then boarded a tour bus and were taken to see Flamanville 3 from a viewing platform (see group picture below). Here it was possible to see the progress that construction teams have made on the power station, including snazzy office buildings to the side. The tour guide explained what has happened and what needs to happen, which was of great interest to me working on the HPC project in the UK. The bus followed a route which took us through the construction site and afforded fantastic close-up views of the new power station layout.

All in all, the two-day trip was a huge success, largely due to the excellent organisation and the fantastic tour guides (especially at La Hague). I would certainly recommend any future visits to any nuclear professionals or students.

By Leigh Woodcock

Flamanville 3 group pic