France details nuclear waste inventory

06 August 2012

France had an inventory of radioactive wastes totalling some 1.32 million cubic metres in 2010, according to the latest data released by the national radioactive waste management agency Andra. This is a 12.9% increase from the 1.15 million cubic metres in 2007.

Aube disposal facility (Andre)
The Aube waste disposal facility (Image: Andra)

Waste from the nuclear power industry accounted for 59% of the total inventory as of 31 December 2010, while the remainder came from research (26%), defence (11%), industrial nuclear applications (3%) and medical applications (1%).

High-level waste (HLW), accounting for just 0.2% of the total waste volume in 2010 (2700 m3), represents 96% of its radioactivity. The amount of HLW that France has increased by 400 m3 between 2007 and 2010. HLW, which mainly comes from the reprocessing of used fuel from nuclear power plants, is destined for disposal in the Centre Industriel de Stockage Géologique (Cigeo) repository being designed by Andra. 

The majority (830,000 m3) of France's radioactive waste in 2010 was short-lived low- and intermediate-level waste (LLW/ILW). These are mainly associated with the operation and maintenance of nuclear facilities. While accounting for 63% of the total waste by volume, this LLW/ILW represents just 0.02% of the entire radioactivity of the waste. This type of waste was previously disposed of at the Centre de Stockage de la Manche (CSM) facility, commissioned in 1969, but the facility has now shut down and is monitored by Andra. Since 1992, this waste has been managed at Andra's Aube facility in eastern France.

Long-lived ILW accounted for 3% of the volume (40,000 m3) and 4% of its radioactivity in 2010. This ILW comprises the metal components from used fuel assemblies, as well as from the reprocessing operations of the used fuel itself. It can also come from internal components of nuclear reactors or waste from maintenance and decommissioning operations. This waste is also destined for disposal in the Cigeo repository.

France had some 87,000 m3 of long-lived LLW in 2010 representing 7% of the total volume, but 0.01% of its radioactivity. This waste includes graphite used in the country's early nuclear power reactors, as well as radium-bearing waste from industry. Andra is currently studying solutions to managing these wastes. Most of this is legacy waste which is no longer being produced. It is being stored while a suitable repository is created.

Very-low-level waste (VLLW) - mainly originating from the operation and decommissioning of nuclear facilities - accounted for 360,000 m3 (27%) of the total waste in 2010, but less than 0.01% of its total radioactivity. Since 2003, VLLW has been disposed of in a dedicated repository at Aube. Some 20,000 to 30,000 m3 of VLLW are disposed of annually.

Assuming that France's current fleet of nuclear power reactors are granted 50-year operating lives and that all used fuel is processed, Andra forecasts that the national radioactive waste inventory will increase to 1.9 million m3 by 2020, with 45,000 m3 of ILW and 4000 m3 of HLW. By 2030, the inventory will reach 2.7 million m3, with 49,000 m3 of ILW and 5300 m3 of HLW.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News