On 8 July 2022, the French official journal published the decree recognising the public utility of Cigéo, the French deep geological disposal project for High Level and Intermediate Level long lived radioactive waste. This decision acknowledges the general interest of Cigéo as a final disposal solution for the most radioactive waste produced in France.
Major progress for the Cigéo project
The declaration of public utility (DUP) is a key stage in the licensing process of Cigéo project for the French National Radioactive Waste Management Agency (Andra). This declaration certifies the recognition of the general interest of the project with respect to the target priorities: protect both people and the environment from high- and intermediate-level waste in the very long term. Over 50% of this waste has already been produced and temporarily stored pending a long-term solution.
The declaration of public utility for Cigéo is not a construction licence for the disposal facility. This licence could be obtained after the processing of the construction licence application to be submitted to the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) towards the end of 2022.
The application for the declaration of public utility for the Cigéo project was submitted in August 2020 to the Ministry of the Ecological Transition. The request for a declaration of public utility, after examination and approval by the State services, the Environmental Authority, the General Council for the Environment and Sustainable Development, and 24 local authorities affected by the project, was the subject of a public inquiry in the fall of 2021. This public inquiry gathered 4,150 contributions and in December 2021, the inquiry board issued its unreserved favourable opinion with 5 recommendations. The report and the conclusions of the public inquiry noted that the inquiry «has brought numerous contributions from the public, most of them very well argued, the majority in favour of the project".
After the French Conseil d’Etat had examined the application, the French government signed the decree declaring the public utility of Cigéo in the French official journal: read the decree (link to the French Official Journal)
A new stage in a project launched 30 years ago
Cigéo stands on the border between the Meuse and Haute-Marne departments of France and is designed to dispose of the highest levels of radioactive waste at a depth of 500 metres in a geological layer which has been stable for several million years.
This project is the outcome of over 30 years of research accomplished by Andra teams, with the support of researchers from the national and international scientific community, including 20 years of on-site scientific experiments in Andra’s Underground laboratory. Cigéo safety case progress is regularly assessed by ASN, IRSN, or the French national assessment commission (CNE2), and constant dialogue is maintained with regional contributors and national stakeholders.
In February 2021, the independent counter-assessment of the socio-economic assessment of Cigéo, mandated by the General Secretariat for Investment (SGPI), highlighted the "strong prudential and insurance value" of the project. The Cigéo project was supported by three acts voted in 1991, 2006 and 2016, and two public debates in 2005 and 2013, and aims to propose a passive and safe solution to avoid passing the responsibility for managing the most radioactive waste to future generations.
Reversibility is a key principle underlying the Cigéo project, ensuring that future generations are able to regularly re-assess the decisions made in the past, and continue building and operating the successive deep disposal layers or upgrading management solutions.
At Cigéo, reversibility is mainly ensured by progressively building up the facility, the adaptability of the design and the flexible disposal system, integrating technological progress and adapting to any potential changes to energy policies. This includes the potential recovery of waste packages already disposed of according to set procedures and over a duration to match the operating and closure strategy for the disposal facility.
On a precautionary basis, the construction licence for the Cigéo disposal facility will define the minimum required duration of reversibility. This duration may not be less than one hundred years.
After Finland and Sweden, France is the third most advanced country in terms of ensuring the final safety of the most radioactive waste. Deep geological disposal is the benchmark long-term solution worldwide and general scientific and technical consensus has been reached. Such solutions are also discussed on a regular basis at international level.
« The declaration of public utility (DUP) is a key stage in the licensing process of Cigéo project for the French National Radioactive Waste Management Agency (Andra). This declaration certifies the recognition of the general interest of the project with respect to the target priorities: protect both people and the environment from high- and intermediate-level waste in the very long term. Over 50% of this waste has already been produced and temporarily stored pending a long-term solution. »
in Journal Officiel, dated 8 July 2022