Detailed investigations are to be carried out at two French communities as part of a program to dispose of long-lived low-level radioactive wastes.
The small communities of Auxon and Pars-lès-Chavanges put themselves forward for consideration along with 38 other areas last year. Preliminary studies completed late in 2008 by French waste authority Andra revealed that both had suitable rock formations and environments for the disposal of the wastes.
Now, much more detailed investigations are to be carried out lasting into next year. After that the government wishes to have a public debate. Either of the communities can end their involvement in the project at any time.
The wastes involved have low levels of radioactivity and so require little shielding, but contain radionuclides that decay over long periods of time (half-lives of over 30 years). This particular profile means they require specific management, separate from other low-level wastes and intermediate-level ones. Their origin is primarily graphite from early nuclear power reactors but also radium-bearing materials from the manufacture of catalytic converters and electronic components as well as wastes from mineral and metal processing.
Both municipalities are in the region of the town of Troyes, 120 km south east of Paris. Auxon is 30 km south west of Troys; Pars-lès-Chavanges is 50 km north east.
If geological and environmental investigations go well during 2009 and 2010, a public debate will be held in 2011 along with a call for reconfirmation of interest from the communities.
Assuming both communities are still interested, the government will choose a site at the end of 2011 and prepare an application for the construction of the storage facility, which would likely be 15-200 m below ground level. The application could be submitted in 2015-6 with construction coming in 2017-9.