Fuel Manufacturing Pilot Plant (FMPP)

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Last Updated: October 1, 2009
Other Name: Fuel Element Pilot Plant; Fuel Element Fabrication Plant
Location: Reactor Engineering Center, Inshas (NE Cairo suburb) [1]
Subordinate To: Atomic Energy Authority (AEA)
Size: Pilot Plant
Facility Status: Operational

Probably the most sophisticated fuel cycle facility in Egypt, the Fuel Manufacturing Pilot Plant produces the fuel elements for the ETRR-2 reactor. [2] The FMPP produces between 24 and 40 MTR-type fuel elements per year. [3] The plant is a declared facility under IAEA safeguards. [4]

INVAP, the Argentinean company that supplied Egypt with the ETRR-2 reactor, designed and constructed the plant, which became operational in May 1998. The FMPP utilizes advanced nuclear equipment and technology, and a workshop capable of producing all of the mechanical parts of the fuel element. [5] The plant also includes laboratories for inspection and quality control of the manufactured fuel elements. [6]

Each fuel element is comprised of 19 plates containing about 2 kg of uranium. The raw material for fuel fabrication is UF6 gas enriched to 19.75 percent, qualifying the material as low enriched uranium (LEU). [7] However, this figure is just below the IAEA 20% threshold for what is considered highly enriched uranium (HEU). To achieve critical mass with 19.75% U-235 enriched uranium, however, would require a minimum of 143.8 kg of uranium. [8] As Princeton professor Alexander Glaser points out, because of the large critical mass (and high spontaneous neutron emission rate), it is virtually impossible to use material enriched below 20% in a simple gun-type nuclear device. In addition, uranium enriched to 19.75% U-235 produces significantly less plutonium when irradiated than does lower enriched uranium (e.g. the 3.5% typically used in LWRs). [9]

Key Sources:
[1] Nuclear Fuel Cycle Information System, "List of Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facilities," International Atomic Energy Agency, www-nfcis.iaea.org.
[2] James M. Acton and Wyn Q. Bowen, "Atoms for Peace in the Middle East: The Technical and Regulatory Requirements," NPEC Working Paper Series, 2008, p. 15.
[3] According to Perera, the facility can produce two fuel elements per month (or approximately 24 per year), while Feldman, Nikitin, and Boureston estimate production of 40 fuel elements per year. Judith Perera, "Nuclear Industry of Egypt," March 2003, p. 27, www.opensource.gov; Yana Feldman, Mary Beth Nikitin, and Jack Boureston, "Egyptian nuclear non-disclosures cause concern," Jane's Intelligence Review, 1 April 2005, www.janes.com.
[4] IAEA, "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Arab Republic of Egypt: Report by the Director General," 14 February 2005, p. 1, www.carnegieendowment.org.
[5] Federation of Atomic Scientists (FAS), "Egypt Special Weapons Guide," June 2000, www.fas.org.
[6] Judith Perera, "Nuclear Industry of Egypt," March 2003, p. 27, www.opensource.gov.
[7] For detailed specifications and explanation of the fuel manufacturing process, see: Judith Perera, "Nuclear Industry of Egypt," March 2003, p. 27, www.opensource.gov.
[8] The 143.8 kg amount assumes use of a 15 cm beryllium neutron reflector. Without the beryllium reflector, one would need 782.2 kg of 19.75% U-235 enriched HEU. Alexander Glaser, "On the Proliferation Potential of Uranium Fuel for Research Reactors at Various Enrichment Levels," Science and Global Security 14, 2006, pp. 3-4.
[9] Alexander Glaser, "On the Proliferation Potential of Uranium Fuel for Research Reactors at Various Enrichment Levels," Science and Global Security 14, 2006, pp. 18-19.

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