Fatal rockfall at planned French repository site

26 January 2016

One person was killed and another injured today by a tunnel collapse within an underground laboratory operated by French waste management agency Andra. The laboratory, near Bure in the Meuse/Haute Marne area, is assessing the site for its suitability to house a national radioactive waste repository.

According to an Andra statement, the working face of the gallery within the laboratory collapsed at 12.20pm. Geophysical surveys were being carried out at the time and the rockfall is believed to have happened as drilling was taking place. The gallery has now been evacuated and its stability is being assessed.

Andra said it is analyzing the overall causes of the accident, whilst a police investigation under the supervision of the prosecutor of the municipality of Bar-le-Duc has been launched to determine the precise circumstances.

France plans to construct the Centre Industriel de Stockage Géologique (Cigéo) repository - an underground system of disposal tunnels, known as galleries - at a depth of some 500 metres in a natural layer of clay near Bure. The facility is to be financed by radioactive waste generators - EDF, Areva and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission - and managed by Andra.

Some 2700 cubic metres of high-level radioactive waste and about 40,000 cubic metres of long-lived intermediate-level radioactive waste is to be disposed of in the Cigéo facility. Between them these contain 99% of the radioactivity from nuclear power generation that has provided the majority of France's electricity over the last few decades.

No radioactive material has yet been placed within the facility, which is awaiting the government's final investment decision. Andra has been conducting work in the underground laboratory to determine the suitability of the site for the planned Cigéo repository.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News