French to debate waste

29 November 2004

All France will debate potential policies on radioactive waste in 2005 to gauge public opinion before draft legislation is prepared for 2006.

The announcement was made by industry minister Patrick Devedjian on 22 November as French radwaste agency, Andra, presented an updated inventory of the country's wastes — including projections up to 2020. The report also includes details of uranium, plutonium and spent fuel in storage. Spent fuel is not considered waste in France, as the currently state-owned utility Electricité de France intends to reprocess all its spent fuel.

France's 1991 radwaste management act stated that the government would reconsider its management options no later than 15 years after the act's passage. That means the parliamentary debate must take place before the end of 2006.

At the centre of the debate is likely to be Andra's investigations into the Bure site, once expected to become host to France's high-level, transuranic and alpha-emitting intermediate level wastes. The 1991 law required more than one potential site to be investigated but to date, only the clay formations at Bure has received Andra's attention.

A potential site at Marcoule seemed a promising alternative to Bure but was discarded in the 1990s as its geology is too similar to Bure's. At that time it was decided that a granite site should be investigated but none could be found worthy of close examination. The current government does not apparently consider multiple geologic laboratories essential, but the omission could provide ammunition for opponents of the Bure plan.

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