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French Nuclear Watchdog Gives Thumbs-Up To Deep Waste Burial

Illustration only.
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Jan 31, 2006
A French nuclear safety watchdog has given its cautious approval to a technique that would allow the storage of long-term radioactive waste deep underground, according to a statement issued on Tuesday.

The Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) gave backing in principle to a method for stocking the waste in underground clay sediments that has been developed in a government laboratory in Bure, eastern France.

Commenting on a report submitted by the ANDRA laboratory in December, the IRSN experts found that the scientists' underground storage technique "appears technically feasible".

Based on its observations so far, the watchdog said, there would be no reason to refuse safety approval for the plans, were they to be implemented.

However, the IRSN said a number of points still needed further clarification, notably the exact methods to be used to prevent any soil contamination from the waste.

A 1991 law gave the French authorities 15 years to study ways of storing the most dangerous forms of nuclear waste. A draft law on the question is expected to be brought before parliament early this year.

ANDRA - the National Agency for the Management of Nuclear Waste - has been studying ways of burying waste 490 metres (1,592 feet) below ground in 155-million-year-old clay sediment at Bure, in the northeastern Lorraine region.

The campaign group "Get Out of Nuclear", which represents some 700 French anti-nuclear organisations, issued a statement criticising the IRSN's decision as "worse than dubious".

"Burying the most dangerous nuclear waste is an absolute crime against future generations," the group said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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