The State Council confirms the public utility of Cigéo

In July 2022, the French government declared the Cigéo geological storage project as being of public utility. Following this decision, several associations sought the cancellation of two decrees embodying the government’s approval. In early December, the State Council affirmed the public utility of Cigéo, rejecting the arguments put forth by the plaintiffs.

As the supreme administrative court in France, the State Council “settles disputes between citizens, businesses, and associations against the authorities.” Several associations approached it intending to annul the inclusion of the Cigéo deep radioactive waste storage site in the list of operations of national interest, as well as the declaration of public utility made in July 2022. The State Council confirms the public utility of Cigéo, dismisses the arguments against the public inquiry, deems the measures to mitigate environmental and human health impacts sufficient, and asserts that the requirement for storage reversibility is met.

The geological layer storage project

Cigéo is the French project for the geological storage of highly radioactive and long-lived waste. It is based on over 30 years of research, as in 1991, the law set three research axes: separation and transmutation, long-term storage (CEA), and geological storage entrusted to the National Agency for the Management of Radioactive Waste (Andra). The geological storage solution is attracting interest from many countries, and France is among the most advanced projects, along with Finland and Sweden. The application for creation authorization (DAC) was submitted in 2023, and the project will still need further approvals for its commissioning between 2035 and 2040.

The State Council’s conclusions

The State Council deems that “the inclusion of the Cigéo project on the list of operations of national interest is legal” and that the procedure for declaring public utility has been adhered to. Furthermore, the administrative judge declares that “the measures to prevent the impacts of Cigéo on the environment and health are sufficient.” The demand for reversibility, a strong citizen request expressed during the public debate of 2005/2006 and enshrined in the law of June 28, 2006, is indeed “respected” according to the judgment. Thus, “after weighing the advantages and disadvantages, particularly in terms of cost, the State Council confirms the public utility of the Cigéo project.” ■

Gaïc Le Gros (Sfen)

Photo ©Romain Bassenne