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Enriched uranium is the preferred fuel for light water reactors, a common nuclear power technology.
In 1973 France, Belgium, Spain and Sweden formed the joint stock company EURODIF. Sweden withdrew from the project in 1974. In 1975 Sweden’s 10 per cent share in EURODIF was transferred to Iran as a result of an arrangement between France and Iran. The French government subsidiary company Cogema and the Iranian Government established the Sofidif (Société franco–iranienne pour l’enrichissement de l’uranium par diffusion gazeuse) enterprise with 60 per cent and 40 per cent shares, respectively. In turn, Sofidif acquired a 25 per cent share in EURODIF, through which Iran attained its 10 per cent share of EURODIF.
In 1974, the Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi lent 1 billion dollars (and another 180 million dollars in 1977) for the construction of the factory, in order to have the right to buy 10% of the production. After the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran's government suspended its payments and attempted to obtain a refund for the loan. Finally an agreement was reached in 1991: France refunded more than 1,6 billion dollars. Iran remains a shareholder of Eurodif via Sofidif, a Franco-Iranian consortium shareholder which owns 25 % of Eurodif.
The factory, named after Georges Besse, provides uranium to forty producers of nuclear electricity, including EDF, France's largest electric power company.
Naturally occurring Uranium contains 0.7% of Uranium 235. Currently, it is enriched up to 5% by a gas diffusion process using uranium hexafluoride (UF6). However, France will abandon the gas diffusion process currently used by the Eurodif factory for a centrifugation process. The project announced by Areva to make the change was the subject of a public discussion in the Rhône-Alpes region from September 1 to October 22, 2004. The advantage of the new process is that it is more energy efficient: Eurodif currently uses the power generated by all three of Tricastin's nuclear reactors for uranium enrichment, whereas the centrifuge-based plant could make similar amounts of uranium with only 50 MW.
The estimated schedule, which plans for the George Besse II plant to begin production at the end of 2007, seems to be facing some delay because of safety studies concerning the risk of seismic activity, criticality in the fuel enrichment process, and the risk of a plane-based terrorist attack; the safety reviews were mandated by the nuclear safety authority.
Dismantling the original Eurodif facility is planned to be completed by the end of 2020.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Eurodif". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|