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France doesn’t know what to do with its radioactive waste

France, Germany, Italy, Spain or Belgium… Most European countries do not know what to do with their radioactive waste anymore. In the space of a few years, the management of this waste has become a real international puzzle that France is also struggling to solve. At the end of 2016, the country had 1,540,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste on its territory. These are stored in 3 sites in the Aube, Gard and Manche. In July 20148, the ANDRA (National Agency for the management of radioactive waste) drew up a balance sheet for the least disturbing because these storage centers could reach saturationbetween 2025 and 2030… But how are nuclear waste managed in France and what account to do the state to solve this situation ?


How does France manage its radioactive waste ?

France has one of the largest nuclear facilities in the world  with 58 reactors spread over 19 nuclear sites. Every year, all sites produce around 405 TWh of nuclear energy, far ahead of Germany (103 TWh), Russia (162 TWh) or Japan (156 TWh). In the end, nuclear power is France’s leading source of electricity production and consumption. France is therefore one of the European countries most concerned by the management of its radioactive waste.

Nuclear waste is 60% emitted by nuclear power (electricity generation), 27% by research, 9% by defense, 3% by non-nuclear industry and 1% by medical. ANDRA, a public institution responsible for the management of radioactive waste in France, distinguishes 2 types of radioactive waste according to their level of radioactivity (high, medium, low or very low activity) and their lifetime. At present, radioactive waste is stored far from the population, largely on the site of Soulaines (Aube). With 250,000 m3 of radioactive waste stored, it is the largest surface storage center in the world !

The storage center of Morvilliers (Aube), for its part, only contains very low-level radioactive products. Despite a capacity of 650,000 m³, this center will reach saturation between 2025 and 2030, according to the new balance sheet of ANDRA. In addition, the volume of radioactive waste on the territory should reach 2.7 million m³ in 2030 against 1.320 million m³ at the end of 2010. France will therefore have to find a solution for the management of radioactive waste…


Radioactive waste management : the solutions envisaged

Among the various projects mentioned: that of storing 80 m³ of medium and high activity nuclear waste in a thick layer of clay supposed to “confine” the radioactivity . It is therefore in Bure, in the Meuse, that France plans to bury its worst nuclear waste. The application for authorization for the construction of this future storage center should be filed in 2019.

In February 2018, EDF confirmed a project to create a new radioactive waste storage pool (possibly in Belleville-sur-Loire (Cher)). The latter would be responsible for hosting up to 8,000 tonnes of spent fuel. The Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) must give the green light in early 2019. It goes without saying that the authorities fear a strong local opposition to the sites of these two projects…


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