Faced with flooding, a leading uranium facility had to urgently treat its water to protect the natural environment

In 2006, the uranium conversion plant Areva Malvési near Narbonne, France was forced to shut down – due to heavy rainfall, water with a high concentration of nitrates had to be treated urgently in order to protect the lagoon, a nature conservation area. To tackle the extreme situation, SUEZ designed an innovative effluent treatment solution. On the back of this partnership, Areva asked SUEZ to modernise its facilities in order to improve on its performance goals and sustainable development policy.
The mission
The ISO 14001 certified Areva Malvési facility is a chemical conversion plant operating upstream in the nuclear fuel cycle. It is one of the largest uranium conversion plants in the world, representing a quarter of total global production.

In February 2006, the Narbonne area experienced very heavy rainfall which flooded the lagoon zone close to the plant. The lagoon ponds reached maximum capacity and could no longer take stormwater from the plain and effluents from the plant. To avoid polluted water flooding the natural environment, the facility had to be shut down and over 60,000 m³ of nitrate-laden water (5 to 10 g/l) had to be treated urgently. Areva called on SUEZ to find solutions to tackle this extreme situation without delay in order to restart production as quickly as possible. 
of nitrate-laden water urgently treated
5 to 10
nitrate concentration in the water that needed treating
Our solutions

Responding to the emergency and implementing sustainable solutions

SUEZ immediately opened a crisis centre to mobilise the necessary teams and technology to ensure Areva Malvési’s nitrate-laden water was treated as quickly as possible.nable solutions

Adapting an existing solution to provide an innovative response

To treat the effluents, SUEZ experts suggested applying reverse osmosis technology, until then used to treat process water and desalinate seawater. This meant:
  • adapting the reverse osmosis technology to treat plant effluents
  • running pilot tests and obtaining positive results
  • providing mobile reverse osmosis units to treat effluents on site and implementing associated operational services
  • treating over 60,000 m3 of nitrate-laden water in a very short period of time


Thanks to the flexibility and swift response of SUEZ teams, Areva Malvési was able to restart production just over a month after shutdown.

Recycling stormwater to protect the lagoon for the long term

In 2007, Areva Malvési, a pioneer in innovative solutions to help protect the environment, launched a huge programme to modernise its facilities to improve safety and protect the environment. It renewed its confidence in SUEZ by entrusting us to build and operate a wastewater treatment plant. This five-year contract enabled us to:
  • Set up a reuse process comprising 35,000 m3 basins, sedimentation tanks, filtration systems and 3-stage reverse osmosis systems
  • Recycle highly concentrated process water: 50 to 150 mg/l of suspended solids at input, 0 at output, with a treatment flow of 25 m³/hr
  • Make significant water and energy savings by reinjecting treated water into the industrial process
  • Launch a new stormwater treatment facility to manage the risk of stormy weather (construction of new concentrate evaporation ponds and implementation of a new way of managing evaporation ponds, based on the Densadeg technology).
The result

Areva Malvési demonstrated remarkable responsiveness to protect the lagoon from heavily nitrate-laden stormwater and ensure the continuity, profitability and sustainability of plant operations. SUEZ provided its technical skills and expertise, taking little over a month to find and apply cutting-edge solutions: 60,000 m³ of stormwater were treated and the plant quickly restarted production. 

Local and institutional authorities appreciated Areva Malvési’s commitment to meeting its responsibilities and avoiding polluting the natural environment.

On top of managing an emergency situation, Areva Malvési improved its economic and environmental performance. By creating a new stormwater recycling process, the plant has:

  • Significantly reduced the quantity of nitrates in water discharged into the natural environment, thanks to a cutting-edge filtration system  
  • Restored the evaporation balance, even during periods of exceptionally heavy rainfall
  • Considerably increased its production capacity, from 15,000 to 21,000 tonnes/year

ISO 50001 certification

The facility’s close partnership with SUEZ was extended and in October 2012 Areva Malvési became the first industrial plant in France to be awarded ISO 50001 certification, for its capacity to make energy savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
of water can be treated in the new wastewater treatment plant
of process water treated
at the end of the treatment process, cf. 50 to 150 mg/l at the start