Andra presents its new inventory of radioactive materials and waste

On December 12, 2023, Andra, the French Public Agency responsible for radioactive waste, presented its five-year inventory of radioactive materials and waste. This exercise aims to assess the volume of radioactive waste and visualize its potential evolution over time. The significant addition to this year’s inventory is the inclusion of the anticipated volume of waste generated by the construction of six EPR2 reactors, as outlined in the “Works on New Nuclear” report released in February 2022.

As of December 31, 2021, the total volume of radioactive waste, encompassing all types, is 1,760,000 cubic meters, compared to 1,540,000 cubic meters in the previous 2016 inventory. This increase aligns with the routine production of radioactive waste corresponding to overall nuclear activity. Most of this difference consists of low and medium-level short-lived radioactive waste (LILW-SL, 64,000 cubic meters) and very low-level radioactive waste (VLLW, 150,000 cubic meters).

Currently, 75% of these wastes are already treated and stored by Andra, while the remainder is stored at producer sites awaiting a storage solution. These include HLW, ILW-LL, and LLW-LL, along with some LILW-SL and VLLW awaiting retrieval, conditioning, or evacuation to storage sites.

Exploration of Four Scenarios

As part of the National Plan for the Management of Radioactive Materials and Waste, considering the ongoing Multiannual Energy Program (PPE2), Andra is exploring four scenarios based on the national energy strategy. The scenarios share a common path until 2040 and diverge based on nuclear plant renewal (EPR2) and fuel reprocessing strategy (cessation, mono-recycling, or multi-recycling in Pressurized Water Reactors and then in Fast Neutron Reactors). Notably, the scenarios, aligned with the current PPE, account for the closure of 12 900 MW reactors, an objective not included in the ongoing public consultation[1] of the French Energy and Climate Strategy (Sfec). Additionally, Andra emphasizes that “the three scenarios considering the renewal of the nuclear fleet only estimate the waste from the current fleet, excluding the waste generated by a potential new reactor fleet mentioned in the assumptions.” Nevertheless, as summarised below, this affects the treatment of certain already-produced waste.

Summary of the Four Scenarios in French, Source: Andra


Unsurprisingly, the scenarios indicate that the longer the nuclear fleet operates, the more the volume of waste increases. However, the difference in volume for LLW-LL, LILW-SL, and VLLW, regardless of the scenario, is minimal. The significant difference lies in HLW and ILW-LL destined for Cigéo, depending on the choice of used fuel reprocessing. Ultimately, Scenario S1 would generate a lower final volume of HLW (11,800 cubic meters) compared to the others (15,380 cubic meters in mono-recycling and 20,400 cubic meters with reprocessing cessation), but a slightly higher volume of ILW-LL (68,800 cubic meters). The volume of ultimate HLW includes both HLW and materials reclassified as termination waste, i.e., at the end of decommissioning authorized nuclear facilities by the end of 2021.

Impacts of Building Six EPR2 Reactors

Andra has also conducted preliminary studies to shed light on the perspective of deploying six new EPR2 reactors. In line with the previously mentioned scenarios, an increase of 16% in HLW waste volume (1,872 cubic meters excluding reclassified materials) and 6% in ILW-LL is projected in the case of multi-recycling. An 11% increase in HLW volume (971 cubic meters excluding reclassified materials) and 6% in ILW-LL is anticipated for mono-recycling. As for LILW-SL and VLLW, a 5% increase in volume is noted regardless of the used fuel recycling strategy.

Currently, Andra’s application for the construction of Cigéo does not include the six EPR2 reactors. However, Sébastien Crombez, Director of Safety, Environment, and Industry at Andra, assures that “before the public inquiry, a crucial step in the process, adaptability studies will be updated to account for the six EPR2. It is important, within this adaptability framework, to demonstrate that Andra, as the technical designer of the facility (Cigéo), can justify its ability to manage the waste from these six EPR2 reactors at the time of Cigéo’s construction.” He adds that “one of Cigéo’s principles is gradual development, a fundamental aspect of the design. The new announcements of projects for new reactors do not change the urgency of launching a waste management solution quickly to store the existing waste, which is Andra’s responsibility. However, the choices made to date regarding Cigéo’s design do not compromise the prospects for opening and adjusting, thanks to this construction and storage commencement timeline.” Regarding the radiological impact and safety concerns related to the waste from these 6 EPRs, Sébastien Crombez adds that “increasing the inventory does not change the order of magnitude of impacts in terms of radioactivity, considering the benchmarks established by the Nuclear Safety Authority.”■


By François Terminet (Sfen)

Photo ©Andra – Adrien Daste – Installation of a concrete FMA waste package at the Aube disposal centre (CSA).