France able to handle waste from six new reactors, Andra says

PARIS (Reuters) – The introduction of six new French nuclear reactors would moderately increase radioactive waste, but would be manageable by adapting waste storage projects, the National Agency for the Management of Radioactive Waste (Andra) said on Tuesday.

France’s energy strategy, which must be codified into law and is set to be debated in early 2024, involves the extension of the country’s current nuclear fleet and the construction of six new EPR2 reactors by state-owned power giant EDF as it aims improve energy independence.

EDF plans to make its final investment decision on the project by the end of next year.

Andra’s projections show that the increase in so-called high level radioactive waste (HLW) produced by six EPR2s would be between 11% and 16% compared to planned volumes without the new reactors, and depending on recycling strategies.

This highly radioactive waste is expected to be stored from the 2080s in Cigéo, a deep geological storage project located in eastern France that has been met with protests from environmental groups.

Intermediate level long-lived waste (IL-LLW) is estimated to increase between 4 to 6% with the six new EPR2s compared to planned volumes without the new reactors, and would also require storage at the Cigéo site.

The Cigéo site is required to undergo a public consultation planned for the end of 2026. Andra’s safety director Sébastien Crombez said that the project’s adaptability studies would be updated beforehand to account for the construction of the six EPR2s.

“We have not identified any major problems,” he said, adding that the Cigéo site has favorable geological properties over an area sufficient to handle increased storage.

The volume of radioactive waste handled or intended to be handled by the public authority increased to 1.76 million cubic meters (m3) by end-2021, up approximately 220,000 m3 from 2018, which matches projections, Andra data showed.

(Reporting by Benjamin Mallet; writing by Forrest Crellin; Editing by Sharon Singleton)