Why deep geological disposal?
Ninety percent of the wastes generated each year in France are disposed of in specially engineered surface facilities. However, disposal facilities are needed for the high-level wastes (HLW) and intermediate-level long-lived wastes (ILW-LL) that have been generated in France over the last few decades.
France was one of the first countries to become aware of the need for establishing a responsible, proactive policy on the management of radioactive wastes. In passing the 1991 Bataille Act on radioactive waste management, the French Parliament placed France's nuclear policy on the path to the search for long-term, safe solutions for disposing of radioactive waste and avoid saddling future generations with the radioactive waste we produce on a daily basis.
Each year, radioactive wastes in France are generated primarily at the country's nuclear power plants and by its defence, industrial, healthcare and research sectors. A number of solutions already exist for the vast majority of these wastes. Indeed, 90% of the total volume of radioactive wastes generated each year in France is stored at Andra's engineered facilities
However, the most highly radioactive and long-lived wastes — some of which can remain hazardous for more than 100,000 years — cannot be stored in surface or near-surface facilities for the reason that there is no guarantee that radioactivity can be contained over such lengths of time.
It is for this reason that, in 2006, France's Parliament chose deep disposal as the only solution for ensuring the long-term safety of radioactive wastes and lightening the burden on future generations. This choice was reinforced by a 2011 EU Council Directive. Furthermore, many countries are also conducting research on deep geological disposal, and Sweden and Finland are currently reviewing applications for licences to build underground repositories.
The 2006 Planning Act on sustainable management of radioactive materials and wastes vested Andra with a mission to design and build an engineered storage facility for these wastes.