It is a shattering comeback. After a decade marked by the Fukushima disaster, the closure of German nuclear power plants and the setbacks of the Flamanville EPR, the nuclear industry is finding its colors and supporters. To respond to the “climate challenge” and guarantee France’s “energy independence”, Emmanuel Macron even announced the construction of new power plants. Enough to relaunch the debate on the management of our nuclear waste.
How the nuclear lobby is trying to win the battle of ideas
To understand the challenges of this sensitive and technical issue, we asked five very simple questions to two radioactive waste experts:
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- What is radioactive waste?
- How do we classify them?
- How many have we produced so far?
- How do we manage them today?
- What is reprocessing?
Is the option of burying at the Cigeo site, in Bure, in the Meuse, viable? Maxime Cordiez, engineer in the nuclear energy sector, and Igor Sguario, office manager in the waste, research facilities and cycle department at the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), answered these questions in the video below.
In France, radioactive waste is classified according to its level of radioactivity and its lifespan. By volume, 90% of them are so-called very low activity (VLL) or low and medium activity short-lived (FMA-VC) waste. Long-lived intermediate-level waste, such as debris from the nuclear industry, and high-level waste, such as spent fuel, concentrate most of the radioactivity.
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Pending the commissioning of the Cigeo landfill project in Bure, this waste, the most dangerous of which is vitrified, is stored in large ventilated sheds at the La Hague reprocessing plant, in the Cotentin. The Nuclear Safety Authority must examine the request for the construction of the Cigéo center in 2022. If approved, construction will start in 2025.