French nuclear waste will triple after decommissioning: agency

Reuters News
|
Posted: Jul 01, 2015 9:12 AM

PARIS (Reuters) - The amount of nuclear waste stored in France will triple once all its nuclear installations have been decommissioned, which will boost the need for storage facilities, French nuclear waste agency Andra said.

In a report released on Wednesday, Andra estimated that final nuclear waste volumes will eventually reach 4.3 million cubic meters, up from 1.46 million at the end of 2013 and an estimated 2.5 million in 2030.

That is based on an average lifespan of 50 years for utility EDF's 58 nuclear reactors and including a new reactor under construction in Flamanville.

Most of that waste will be only slightly radioactive, such as building rubble and clothing used during decommissioning, but because of its bulk, it requires increasing amounts of space.

Andra, which publishes a nuclear waste inventory every three years, expects its low-level waste facility in Morvilliers, in the Aube region, would fill up between 2020 and 2025.

"We want to warn that the storage centers are filling up and that we need to optimize waste management because storage facilities are a rare resource," Andra executive Michele Tallec told Reuters.

Volumes of highly radioactive, long-life waste - which represent just 0.2 percent of the volume but 98 percent of the radioactivity - should rise from 3,200 cubic meters at the end of 2013 to about 10,000 cubic meters when all France's nuclear plants reach their end of life.

This waste is scheduled to be buried in the controversial deep-storage site in Bure, in eastern France, which already has a test facility but has not received any nuclear waste.

This year, Andra plans to present the French government and nuclear regulator ASN a technical dossier on Bure, which aims to bury nuclear waste 500 meters underground in thick layers of argillite rock, which Andra says will prevent most radioactive particles from traveling more than a few meters over hundreds of thousands of years.

Andra plans to put in a formal request to build the 35 billion euro facility - which faces resistance from environmental groups and local residents - in 2017 and hopes to start construction in 2020 with a view to open it for first testing in 2025.

(Reporting by Benjamin Mallet and Michel Rose, writing by Geert De Clercq, editing by David Evans)