Public comment on French waste disposal

16 May 2013

Plans for the Cigéo facility to dispose of radioactive waste at Bure in France have reached the stage of final public consultation.

Having based its power system on nuclear energy since the mid 1970s, France has accumulated around 2700 cubic metres of high-level radioactive waste and about 40,000 cubic metres of long-lived intermediate-level radioactive waste. Between them these contain 99% of the radioactivity from nuclear power generation.

A suitable site with local support for underground disposal has been identified at Bure, to the east of Paris in the Meuse/Haute Marne area. Having studied the rock there for several years, the national waste management agency, Andra, proposes to create a network of tunnels in which to emplace the waste.

Cigeo vision (Andra) 460x298
How Cigéo would expand underground through a natural layer of clay (Image: Andra)

Industrial design work on the Centre Industriel de Stockage Géologique (Cigéo) facility was contracted in January 2012. It would see the development of a storage facility at a depth of some 500 metres, exploiting the properties of the Bure clay formation as a geologic barrier to prevent any potential spread of radioactivity. Although Cigeo will be designed to accommodate the wastes permanently, French law requires that storage can be reversible for at least 100 years.

A range of documentation on the project has been made available for a consultation period running from 15 May to 15 October. Public comments will be considered ahead of Andra's licence application for to build and operate Cigéo, which could be submitted to the French Nuclear Safety Authority (Autorité De Sûreté Nucléaire, ASN) next year. Given permission, Andra would hope to begin construction of Cigéo in 2019 and bring it into operation by 2025.

Cigéo or any other waste disposal facility would be paid for by money set aside by EDF during the operation of its 58 power reactors. The company has already been working with Areva to reprocess its used reactor fuel to recover recyclable fuels and at the same time minimise waste for disposal. In its central accounts, EDF has around €40 billion ($51 billion) set aside for waste management and decommissioning of power plants.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News