An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said France demonstrated a comprehensive commitment to safety with a responsible approach to the management of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel. The team also made suggestions aimed at further enhancements and noted several good practices.
The Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) team concluded an 11-day mission to France on 24 January. The mission, requested by the Government of France, was hosted by the Directorate General of Energy and Climate (DGEC), with the participation of officials from several relevant organizations including the French National Radioactive Waste Agency (ANDRA) and the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), which is responsible for nuclear and radiation safety regulation in the country.
ARTEMIS missions provide independent expert advice from an international team of specialists convened by the IAEA. Reviews are based on the IAEA safety standards as well as international good practices. The mission to France aimed to help the country meet European Union obligations that require an independent peer review of national programmes for the safe and responsible management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.
Nuclear power currently generates more than 70 percent of France’s electricity. The country has 58 operating nuclear power reactors, which will require the continuing safe management of radioactive waste and spent fuel. France operates facilities for the disposal of very low-level and low-level wastes, and is developing a deep geological repository for the disposal of high-level waste.
“On the basis of the review, the team concluded that France’s waste management programme is comprehensive and coherent in fostering safety,” said ARTEMIS team leader Peter De Preter, Senior Advisor at ONDRA/NIRAS, the Belgian agency for the management of radioactive waste. “Our review highlights France’s commitment to safety.”
The ARTEMIS team said France is well positioned to continue meeting high standards of safety. It noted a number of good practices to be shared with the global waste management community, while making suggestions for further enhancing the programme.
Good practices identified by the team included:
● A clear government commitment to the national strategy and programme for waste management, including safe disposal.
● The development of a transparent national waste inventory.
● Deliberate efforts towards maintaining a high level of professional, competent staff.
Suggestions made by the team included:
● Facilitate implementation of the requirement for decommissioning to take place in the shortest time possible.
● Optimize management of very low level wastes.
● Consider mechanisms to address disposal liabilities for small waste producers should be considered.
The team comprised 13 experts from Belgium, Canada, Cuba, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom as well as three IAEA staff members. The team held meetings with officials from the Government and several relevant organizations.
“This peer review represents an important element in our efforts to ensure the safety of the French waste management programme, establish greater public confidence and respond to the EU waste directive,” said Aurelien Louis, Head of the Nuclear Industry Department at DGEC. “The outcome of the mission was very positive while also providing us with suggestions that will be a good basis for future enhancements.”
IAEA Deputy Director General Juan Carlos Lentijo, Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, noted that the French mission was the second ARTEMIS carried out to meet EU obligations, following a recent review in Poland.
“The French national programme is characterized by a pervasive proactive attitude combined with a high level of professionalism, which together demonstrates an enduring commitment to safety,” Lentijo said. “The French programme review provides all of us a valuable reference with an established, diverse and coherent programme.”
The final mission report will be provided to the Government in about two months.
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