October 02, 2017

AREVA NP's employee Yves Combres, receives honors from the Chinese government

On September 29, 2017, Yves Combres, the General Manager of CAST, a joint venture between AREVA NP and CNNC, was awarded the highest Chinese honor for foreign nationals, the "Chinese Government Friendship Award". This is to reward his personal investment in Sino-French cooperation, which has been both long-term and very significant in terms of the industrial and economic stakes involved for AREVA NP.

A French engineer with a career spanning thirty years at several Fuel BU sites, with a focus on the field of Zirconium, Yves Combres moved to China in 2011 after leading the CAST negotiations from 2006 onwards. His mission was to build and head up a facility for manufacturing zirconium alloy fuel cladding tubes, located in the suburbs of Shanghai. The ultimate goal: to market zirconium tubes for the production of fuel assemblies for Chinese utilities, the whole enterprise being underpinned by a transfer of technology from the Paimboeuf facility in France.

Having been involved from the first hour in shaping this partnership between AREVA NP and CNNC (China National Nuclear Corporation), Yves is today distinguished for his work, his perseverance and for the results achieved. The CAST plant supplies the local Chinese market with an annual production capacity of 1,500 km of tubes and employs a staff of 114.

Upon receiving his award, Yves Combres declared:

"I am particularly proud and happy to receive this distinction from the Chinese authorities. Beyond any personal merit, this award is recognition for the AREVA NP expatriate teams with whom I have shared this industrial adventure, as well as the for the Fuel BU teams - first and foremost the Paimboeuf plant, its CAST back office team and its technical teams. A special thought for the CNNC group and my colleagues at CJNF whose support has been essential to the success of this project, initiated over eleven years ago. Thanks to our work day after day with the CAST teams and the Fuel BU teams, all in close collaboration with my Chinese counterparts, CAST is now up and running and has a bright industrial future ahead of it."

Timeline:

2006 – 2010: discussions between AREVA and CNNC to create a plant in China to market zirconium tubes for the production of fuel assemblies for Chinese utilities

November 2, 2010: creation of the CAST joint venture between AREVA and CNNC

2011: CAST qualified on Zy4, start of technology transfer with Paimboeuf for the M5TM alloy, active participation in the development of Chinese alloys

2013: CAST licensed by AREVA and qualified by CNNC for the manufacture of M5TM alloy claddings

2014: increase in capacity of the site, stepping up from 300 km/yr to 1,500 km/yr

2015: qualification of new processes and start-up of production

Find out more about CAST

The plant consists of two main workshops devoted to the pilgering of the tubes and the finishing and inspection operations on the cladding tubes and guide tubes. The CAST facility supplies the local Chinese market and has an annual production capacity of 1,500 km of tubes.

For CNNC, the major interest of this joint venture lies in the security of M5TM zirconium tube supply to its two nuclear fuel fabrication plants. For the Component Operations Department of the BU Fuel, already the world's leading manufacturer of zirconium components, the primary goal is to position itself closest to its customers.

Find out more

About the Paimboeuf site:

The Paimboeuf site is located in the French Department of Loire-Atlantique (44) between the business catchment areas of St Nazaire and Nantes. The Paimboeuf plant receives tube blanks from the Montreuil-Juigné site and delivers finished products to the group’s nuclear fuel fabricators.

The Paimboeuf site operates two shops:

  • The chemical and thermal rolling shop rolls the tubes and bars before chemical and heat treatment.
  • The finishing and control lab finishes the guide tubes, the cladding tubes and the rod cap bars, and controls their quality.

The transformation operations performed on the Paimboeuf site consist of rolling, chemical and heat treatment, as well as finishing and control operations. The surface treatments carried out require the use of chemical substances such as hydrofluoric and nitric acids.

Zirconium

Zirconium is the leading material for nuclear fuel assemblies used in light water reactors (PWRs and BWRs) because it is transparent to neutrons, it has good temperature performance, and it withstands corrosion.

Zirconium alloys are used to produce the main mechanical components of nuclear fuel assemblies. The cladding tubes, once filled with uranium pellets and sealed, form the fuel rods. The guide tubes and grids, once assembled, form the rigid structure of the fuel assembly: the skeleton.

Tubes

Cladding tubes: thin tubes designed to contain uranium pellets and facilitate the transfer of heat to the nuclear reactor water.

Guide tubes: these are distinct from cladding tubes and serve a dual purpose: they form the structure of fuel assemblies and enable the insertion of control rods into into fuel assemblies during operation to regulate the fission reaction.