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In France, the nuclear waste keeps piling up: new reactors will add to the dilemma

France inches towards nuclear waste solution as more reactors planned

President Macron’s ‘French Nuclear Renaissance’ aims to provide energy independence and greener electricity for France – but the nuclear waste keeps piling up        Connexion, By George Kazolias, 8 Apr 22,

Emmanuel Macron has announced plans to launch construction of six new nuclear reactors by 2050, along with studies for a possible eight further ones.

He also wants to prolong the life of existing reactors beyond 50 years in what he is calling the “French Nuclear Renaissance”.

Mr Macron’s vision to “take back control of [France’s] energy and industrial destiny” might be a winner with his electorate, but it clashes with the proposals of most of the left-wing presidential candidates, who want to reduce reliance on nuclear power. 

New reactors will add to waste dilemma

Solutions for dealing with the waste already produced by existing power stations, however, are still struggling to get out of the starting blocks – and there is no plan for what would be done with waste from a potential 14 additional ones…………..At present, however, none of France’s nuclear reactor waste has been dealt with in a long-term way. All waste considered radioactive, almost two million cubic tonnes of it, is stored at surface level, in treatment centres and pools, or shallow repositories.

Some 60% of this comes from reactors and the rest is from medical, research, military and other sources. 

The other waste, which includes items such as tools, clothing, mops and medical tubes, is not highly radioactive,

………   More problematic is what to do with France’s intermediate and high-level nuclear waste. 

In 1998, a site near the village of Bure in the Meuse in north east France was chosen as the final storage place for most of it. It will be stored half a kilometre below ground in a vast network of tunnels and galleries known as a Deep Geological Repository (DGR).

The facility will be big enough for all the nuclear waste accumulated so far, but on-site studies, administrative procedures and opposition to the programme, including court cases and civil disobedience, have slowed its opening.

Deep underground storage could be three years away

The Bure DGR will store the waste in galleries carved out of 160-million-year-old compacted clay rocks. Known by its French acronym, Cigéo, the project currently holds 84% of the 665 hectares required to build the facility. The prefecture of the Meuse gave it a declaration of public utility (DUP) in December – a formal recognition that a proposed project has public benefits that must be obtained for most large construction and infrastructure projects before work can begin.

Once the Conseil d’Etat gives its consent, the prime minister can sign his own DUP. Andra will then have the power to get the rest of the property it needs.

In the meantime, work has continued with digging of wells and galleries to test reversible techniques of stocking waste for up to 100,000 years.

The prime minister is expected to sign off only after the presidential elections, but the final green light might be three years away as the rigorous and independent Nuclear Security Agency studies the permit request to move and store the spent nuclear fuel and other radioactive matter.

Plans are for existing not future waste

Activity at the Cigéo remains high, nevertheless. This year, a 1,700m² building, called The Eclipse, is being built to house companies working on underground trials.

A 100m-long cavity will also be dug to test technologies and conduct experiments. This is the length each cavity will have to be for intermediate-level waste, which is often solidified into concrete.

The nuclear authority is hoping to start storing this type of waste in 2025.

It is impossible to bury the high-level radioactive waste. This is turned into a glass-like substance, but then requires a cooling period of at least 50 years. 

The clay storage facilities cannot handle temperatures above 90C.

Senator Sido said: “It is true that the most recent batches cannot be stocked in their present state. They are too hot and need a cooling-off period of several decades. But the first batches can be stocked now.” 

The remaining high-level waste might not arrive before 2060. By then, France will have produced at least as much nuclear waste again. For that, it might have to create a new underground facility.

“As far as I know, there is no project in the pipeline for high-level and long-lived waste which will be produced in the future,” Mr Sido said.


April 9, 2022 - Posted by | France, wastes

1 Comment »

  1. […] In France, the nuclear waste keeps piling up: new reactors will add to the dilemma […]

    Pingback by In France, the nuclear waste keeps piling up: new reactors will add to the dilemma | Ace News & Views | April 10, 2022 | Reply

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