France

France nuclear waste stocks set to double by 2030

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The amount of nuclear waste in France is set to double over the 18 years, according to the country’s nuclear waste agency. Most of the waste will have low toxicity and a short life but some will remain radioactive for more than two million years.

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There are 1.3 million cubic metres of nuclear waste in France at the moment, according to the Andra agency which is charged with stocking and disposing of them. The figure is

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likely to reach 2.7 million by 2030, a report produced Wednesday said.

The current total is two kilogrammes per inhabitant.

Nuclear power is the principal source of electricity in France and Andra foresees major problems stocking waste, predicting that one centre in the eastern Aube department which was opened in 2003 will be full by 2025.

The waste comes from several sources:

  • Nuclear power stations: 59 per cent;
  • Research laboratories: 26 per cent;
  • Military activity: 11 per cent;
  • Non-nuclear industry: three per cent;
  • Medicine: one per cent.

Only 0.2 per cent of current stocks are highly radioactive. But they account for 96 per cent of radioactivity. Some of them are short life but others, such as neptunium 237 can remain active for more than two million years.

A new very deep site is to be constructed for high and medium radioactivity waste in the east of the country and is expected to be opened in 2025.

Low radioactivity substances account for 63 per cent of volume and 0.02 per cent of radioactivity. They are expected to quadruple by 2030 to 1.3 million cubic metres, largely because of the dismantling of nine outdated reactors and several research sites.

If nuclear power stations are closed earlier than expected, stocks of waste will rise, Andra warns, because there will be less possibility of recycling waste.

François Hollande's Socialist government resisted pressure from their ecologist coalition partners to drastically reduce the nuclear power industry, limiting power station closures to one, Fessenheim in Alsace.

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