LA HAGUE NUCLEAR REPROCESSING PLANT
Since 2018, Erne Fittings has been supplying large volumes of pipe fittings, produced at our factory in Mürzzuschlag, for the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in La Hague in northern France.
The plant, which is operated by Orano (previously Areva), is one of the largest nuclear fuel reprocessing plants in the world. Reprocessing plants use chemical and physical processes to extract reusable radioactive fission and activation products from spent nuclear fuel. Plutonium and some uranium can be recycled as fresh fuel, and any remaining radioactive waste then processed further and disposed of.
There are two plants in operation at the La Hague site, which are specially designed for reprocessing oxide fuel from light water reactors. The plants, which have been running since 1976, can process around 1700 tonnes of spent fuel per year and recycle up to 96% of the material. As well as reprocessing fuel for the 58 nuclear power plants in France, La Hague also recycles material from plants in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands.
As part of the European Economic Interest Grouping GNMS (Global Nuclear Metal Supply), Erne Fittings was commissioned at the start of 2018 to supply fittings for the expansion work taking place at the La Hague nuclear reprocessing plant. To date it has supplied elbows, tees, reducers and caps from DN15 to DN250, in the following materials: P265GH, 1.4306 and 1.4404.
All the products are produced using cold forming procedures at our factory in Mürzzuschlag in south-east Austria, in line with the customer’s individual specifications. These specifications require that all the fittings meet the Areva Standards, which have been modified specifically for this project, including limits on chemical analyses, specific measurement tolerances and specialist tests. Another quality assurance and quality management requirement is that we follow an ‘Inspection Matrix’, which must be stamped and signed by an authorised staff member at each stage in the production process. There are also special surface finishes and specific markings for the nuclear industry that we must apply, as well as particular requirements for packaging and delivery that we must follow.
We are extremely proud to be involved in this project and delighted that the customer trusts in the quality of our products for such a critical application.
Erne Fittings has been producing pipe fittings using cold forming procedures in Mürzzuschlag since 1988. Located in Styria in south-east Austria, the factory manufactures a range of products to complement our production operations in Schlins, including elbows, tees and reducers in a huge variety of materials, in sizes up to 12 inches.
Originally, Erne Fittings specialised exclusively in the production of elbows using the Hamburg bending process and made a name for itself as a leading supplier of these products. Then, at the end of the 1970s, the company took the strategic decision to expand its operations to cover all butt-weld fittings and set about finding suitable partners for this venture. In 1985, Erne Fittings GmbH signed an exclusivity agreement with Vereinigte Edelstahl-Werke (VEW), a subsidiary of the VOEST-Alpine Group, for the sale of all non-stainless steel products. Just a few years earlier, VEW had set up its own production company for pipe fittings, which was manufacturing predominately stainless steel butt-weld fittings at its factory in Mürzzuschlag. The factory used a cold forming procedure known as liquid bulge forming, which VEW had successfully implemented on an industrial scale. More importantly, the factory was able to process the carbon steel and medium-alloy steels used by Erne, and so a partnership between the two companies was born.
Three years later, despite being the ‘smaller’ partner, Erne Fittings took over the whole VEW factory for butt-weld fittings, including all 40 employees, and finally achieved its goal of becoming a one-stop-shop for these products. Following the acquisition, the company also changed its name from ‘Josef Erne Rohrbogenwerk GmbH’ to ‘Erne Fittings GmbH’. Today, it continues to employ 100 employees in Mürzzuschlag.
Erne News 05/2020