IAEA commends French nuclear waste programme

19 May 2020

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has released the final report from its January 2018 mission to France to review radioactive waste management and decommissioning in the country. The review team said it had been "impressed with the nature and implementation of the French national programme".

The Artemis mission team (Image: IAEA)

At the request of the French government, the IAEA has conducted an integrated review service for radioactive waste and used fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programmes, referred to as Artemis. Artemis missions provide independent expert opinion and advice, drawn from an international team of specialists convened by the IAEA. Reviews are based on the IAEA safety standards and technical guidance, as well as international good practices.

The 11-day mission concluded on 24 January, 2018 and comprised 13 experts from Belgium, Canada, Cuba, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK, as well as three IAEA staff members. The mission was hosted by the Directorate General of Energy and Climate with the participation of officials from several organisations, including the French National Radioactive Waste Agency (Andra) and the Nuclear Safety Authority.

The mission to France aimed to help the country meet European Union obligations that require an independent peer review of national programmes for the safe and responsible management of used fuel and radioactive waste. These assessments must be carried out every 10 years at least. It was the second Artemis carried out to meet EU obligations, following a mission to Poland in October 2017.

"The team consensus is the French national programme is comprehensive and coherent in fostering safety across the spectrum of laws, regulations, and decrees, and their effective implementation by the pertinent waste management organisations," the report says. "Consequently, there are no recommendations made by the team, though a number of suggestions and best practices are noted."

The mission Artemis team said the combination of the Programme Act 2006-739, the Environment Code and the National Plan establishes policies for the safe management of all France's radioactive waste, as well as the main strategic management directions, actions and responsibilities for their implementation. The National Plan is based upon a current and projected National Inventory of radioactive waste updated every three years. In addition, the efforts at capacity building for human resources and transparency with stakeholders was noted for its proactive approach.

"The French radioactive waste and spent fuel management programme is one of the older and larger programmes in the world, with commensurate resources to ensure effectiveness in fostering safety and programme implementation," the team said. "Regardless, all programmes should maintain a certain vigilance in assuring effective practices are maintained or enhanced, and remain open to opportunities for improvement."

Andra has now made the Artemis mission's final report available on its website.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News