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CEA research on... | Energies | Nuclear energy | Radioactive waste
CEA research on...
The management of radioactive waste in France is covered under the Act dated 28 June 2006. The CEA is involved on two fronts: as a nuclear operator, it is responsible for managing the waste it generates, and as an R&D player, it leads research on the treatment, conditioning and long-term behaviour of waste.
From a historical viewpoint, the nuclear industry was one of the first to be concerned about the future of its waste and to investigate solutions for its management and disposal. There are currently several waste disposal facilities fully operational in France. Other waste disposal options are being studied to check their feasibility on an industrial level. This issue of national relevance is managed by the public authorities and governed by French law.
Most of the radioactive waste generated by the CEA results from its dismantling operations, while the remainder is produced by its R&D activities. As a nuclear operator, the CEA is responsible for managing its waste. There are many different types of waste which are managed through approximately 160 waste treatment facilities available at the CEA centres.
Its strategy is based on using the existing waste storage and disposal facilities whenever possible.
Pending this final disposal solution, the CEA is carrying out several programmes to retrieve and condition legacy waste. It also continues to build and/or ensure the operational maintenance of interim storage facilities.
About 90% of the nuclear waste (in volume) produced in France has already been provided with a final disposal outlet. These storage and disposal facilities are managed by Andra (French radioactive waste management) on an industrial scale. Very-low-level waste (VLLW) is sent to the Morvilliers site (Aube department) for disposal, while short-lived low- and intermediate-level waste (SL-LILW) is sent to the Soulaines surface disposal centre (also in the Aube department).Long-lived intermediate-level waste (LL-ILW) represents 3% of the total nuclear waste volume and 4% of the total radioactivity, whereas high-level waste (HLW) only represents 0.2% of the total nuclear waste volume, but 96% of the total radioactivity*. This waste currently has no final disposal outlet. It is conditioned and stored by their producers pending the availability of a specific final repository. In the long term, this waste will be placed in a deep geological repository for final disposal. Cigeo is the name of this deep geological repository project under the responsibility of Andra.
The Act of 28 June 2006 currently establishes the main research orientations for radioactive waste management. This law defines three complementary areas of research and investigation, with the CEA being mainly involved in two of these areas.
Contrary to the 1991 Act which provided for the very first research orientations for such waste, the 2006 Act covers much more ground than these three subjects. Its scope has been greatly extended. It no longer only encompasses long-lived high-level waste, but nuclear materials in general and a global overview of the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle. This act also defines the government program for the French waste management policy along with its basic principles and deadlines.Within this scope and outside the three above-mentioned areas of research, the CEA carries out R&D programmes on the treatment, conditioning and long-term behaviour of waste packages to support both waste producers and Andra.
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.