Marcoule Nuclear Site

Coordinates: 44°8′36″N 4°42′34″E / 44.14333°N 4.70944°E / 44.14333; 4.70944
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Marcoule Nuclear Power Plant
LocationChusclan and Codolet communes
Coordinates44°8′36″N 4°42′34″E / 44.14333°N 4.70944°E / 44.14333; 4.70944
Construction began1952
Commission date7 January 1956;
68 years ago
Decommission date20 June 1984;
39 years ago
Nuclear power station
Reactor supplierSACM
Power generation
Make and modelRateau
Units decommissioned1 x 2 MW
2 x 38 MW
External links
CommonsRelated media on Commons

Marcoule Nuclear Site (French: Site nucléaire de Marcoule) is a nuclear facility in the Chusclan and Codolet communes, near Bagnols-sur-Cèze in the Gard department of France, which is in the tourist, wine and agricultural Côtes-du-Rhône region. The plant is around 25 km north west of Avignon, on the banks of the Rhone.

Operational since 1956, Marcoule is a gigantic site run by the atomic energy organization Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique (CEA) and Areva NC and is known as CEA VALRHO Marcoule. The first industrial and military plutonium experiments took place in Marcoule. Diversification of the site was started in the 1970s with the creation of the Phénix prototype fast breeder reactor, which was operational until 2009, and is nowadays an important site for decommissioning nuclear facilities activities.

As of 2016 the Phénix reactor was planned to be succeeded by the sodium-cooled fast reactor ASTRID (Advanced Sodium Technical Reactor for Industrial Demonstration), foreseen to become operational in the 2030s.[1] However, in 2019 the ASTRID project was closed.[2]

Since 1995, the MELOX factory has been producing MOX from a mix of uranium and plutonium oxides. MOX is used to recycle plutonium from nuclear fuel; this plutonium comes from the COGEMA La Hague site.

The ATelier Alpha et Laboratoires pour ANalyses, Transuraniens et Etudes de retraitement (ATALANTE) is a CEA laboratory investigating the issues of nuclear reprocessing of nuclear fuel and of radioactive waste.


The site housed a number of the first generation French UNGG reactors, all of which have been shut down. Since then, it has also operated two heavy water reactors to produce tritium. Cooling for all of the plants comes from the Rhône river.

Unit Type Net power Total power Construction start Construction finish Full operation Shut down
Marcoule G1[3] UNGG 2 MW 1955 07.01.1956   15.10.1968
Marcoule G2[4] UNGG 39 MW 43 MW 01.03.1955 22.04.1959 22.04.1959 02.02.1980
Marcoule G3[5] UNGG 40 MW 43 MW 01.03.1956 04.04.1960 04.04.1960 20.06.1984
Celestin 1[6] Tritium breeder         1967 2009
Celestin 2 Tritium breeder         1968 2009
Phénix[7] Fast breeder 130 MW 142 MW 01.03.1968   14.07.1974 01.02.2010

2011 explosion[edit]

On 12 September 2011, there was an explosion in an oven used to melt metallic waste of a "weak and very weak" level of radioactivity, killing one person, and injuring four. The explosion happened in the Centraco centre, used by Socodei, a sister company of Électricité de France.[8][9] A safety cordon was set up around the plant by fire officers because of the risk of leakage.[8][9]

CEA VALRHO Marcoule[edit]

The CEA in Marcoule have numerous laboratories and research institutes which carry out research into;[10]

  • Nuclear reactor waste recycling
  • Future nuclear reactor technology (including a fourth generation prototype reactor to be ready by 2030)
  • Nuclear decommissioning technology

A science museum for the general public, Visiatome Marcoule, devoted to energy issues is located by the Marcoule site.

While most facilities are located at the main Marcoule site, a small number of facilities at Pierrelatte (located close at the Tricastin Nuclear Site) do also belong to the Marcoule Nuclear Site.

In 2007 over 500 million euros was spent supporting the work of the 30 laboratories.[11]



  1. ^ "Ministries spar as Japan focuses on fast reactor project in France". Asahi Shimbun. 22 September 2016. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  2. ^ "France cancels ASTRID fast reactor project". Nuclear Engineering International. 2 September 2019. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  3. ^ Reference: Liste der Nuklearanlagen in Frankreich
  4. ^ "Nuclear Power Reactor Details - G-2 (MARCOULE)". Power Reactor Information System. International Atomic Energy Agency. Retrieved 12 September 2011.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "Nuclear Power Reactor Details - G-3 (MARCOULE)". Power Reactor Information System. International Atomic Energy Agency. Retrieved 12 September 2011.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ History The plant of Marcoule
  7. ^ "Nuclear Power Reactor Details - PHENIX". Power Reactor Information System. International Atomic Energy Agency. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  8. ^ a b "France Nuclear: Marcoule Site Explosion Kills One". BBC News. 12 September 2011. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  9. ^ a b Willsher, Kim (12 September 2011). "Explosion at French Nuclear Waste Plant". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  10. ^ {fr}
  11. ^ {fr} Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]