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Cigéo’s pilot industrial phase

The development of Cigéo is organized in several successive phases. Andra proposes that the first years of repository construction and operation should correspond to the pilot industrial phase (Phipil).

The principle of a pilot industrial phase was adopted by the Agency following the 2013 public debate on the project. The aim was to build on the cautious approach  proposed by Andra for the stepwise construction and startup of a new type of industrial facility. Since 2016, the pilot industrial phase has been a legal requirement enshrined in the environmental code (article L. 542-10-1). 

The Phipil process and objectives will be clarified as consultations progress. They will take into account the future requirements of the authorities, together with the guidelines on the management of high-level waste (HLW) and long-lived intermediate-level waste (LL-ILW), including the National Plan for the Management of Radioactive Materials and Waste (PNGMDR).


The objective of Phipil is to consolidate, agree upon and, as far as possible, share the background information to be supplied to Parliament, providing the basis for its decision on the conditions for taking the Cigéo project further, during the 2040-2050 timeframe. According to Andra, this information must at least relate to the following issues:
• Construction of the underground structures;
• Geological data;
• Industrial disposal operations;
• Disposal facility safety;
• Disposal facility reversibility;
• Environmental monitoring;
• Feasibility of the subsequent closure of the disposal facility;
• Governance.

On this basis, Phipil will have to demonstrate that the technical solutions developed by Andra are relevant to the Cigéo project objectives, foremost of which are ensuring the safety and protecting the health of humans and the environment.


From the technical standpoint, Phipil meets the twin objective of:

• providing in situ confirmation, under actual repository environmental, construction and industrial operation conditions, of the data acquired for its design. The aim will be to confirm the properties of the Callovo-Oxfordian geological layer and the envisaged excavation processes, build the structures (waste disposal cells, sealing, etc.) and evaluate them, and test the reversibility of the disposal facility;

• Gradually take over the operation of the unique industrial complex that is Cigéo.

From the governance standpoint, Phipil constitutes,for public and stakeholder participation, a setting-up,breaking-in and knowledge acquisition phase (in the same way as the facility tests for technical aspects). It will enable them to work more effectively on the preparation and follow-up of the decisions to be taken during this phase and to gradually prepare those to be taken afterwards. The terms of governance will be modifiable and reinforceable on the basis of the experience feedback from the exchanges and consultations made and the decisions taken during Phipil. 




Andra proposes that Phipil should start after the decree licensing the creation of the Cigéo project has been issued. The first stage, lasting an estimated 10-15 years, will be dedicated to the initial building of the structures and the tests with waste package mockups. Commissioning authorization from the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) will be needed to transition to the second stage, lasting an estimated 5-10 years, which will include tests with radioactive waste packages and disposal operations.

This timeline will enable the acquisition of full-scale experience feedback and the generation of several documents, including the Phipil summary report needed for decision-making by Parliament.

On completion of a process defined in the environmental code and involving opinions from the National Assessment Commission (CNE), the ASN and regional communities, together with an assessment by the Parliamentary Office for Assessment of Scientific and Technological Choices (OPECST), Parliament will vote a law setting out the conditions for taking the Cigéo project further and, if necessary, modifying the conditions for its reversibility.

Phipil will come to an end with the go-ahead to transition to the next phase. This will be issued by the ASN in the conditions set out by Parliament. It will be either a phase of dismantling and closure of Cigéo, if Parliament has decided to abandon deep disposal for some or all of the disposed waste, or the next phase of repository operation.


In 2021, the consultations on Phipil aimed to present, clarify and debate:

• Phipil as already proposed by Andra in terms of deployment of the disposal facility;

• The background information to be gained in Phipil  and supplied to Parliament, providing the basis for its decision on the conditions for taking the Cigéo project further, during the 2040-2050 timeframe;

• The Phipil organisation proposed by Andra, as well as its scope;

• The Phipil timeline proposed by Andra in terms of the decision-making process;

• The Andra-proposed linking of Phipil with the periodic exercises required by the regulations, in connection with Cigéo operations (updates to the operations master plan, reversibility reviews, safety reappraisals);

• The reports proposed by Andra, which will be prepared by the Agency during Phipil.

 Consultations will extend beyond the filing of these license application documents, during the processing period. Along with the demands and requirements of the authorities, the consultations will contribute to the formalisation and clarification of Phipil.

Last of all, Andra would like the consultations to go on during Phipil itself, particularly for the preparation of the many documents required at the various milestones, for example the commissioning application package (which will enable the transition from the first to the second stage of Phipil), the summary report supplied to Parliament and the application for go-ahead to proceed to the next phase (whether it is a shutdown and dismantling phase or a continuation phase).  


Is Phipil a commitment to the full execution of Cigéo?

Phipil is not necessarily a commitment to taking disposal further: Parliament is the sole decision-maker on the continuation of Cigéo and can shut it down on completion of this phase. In this case, Andra will withdraw some or all of the radioactive waste packages after the Parliament decision and in line with ASN requirements, and will carry out dismantling and closure of the disposal facility.

If the Cigéo project is taken further, many decisions will remain to be taken as part of governance and in connection with the directions set out in the PNGMDR: building of new structures, closure operations, etc.  

What structures are needed for Phipil?

The structures needed for receiving, transferring and disposing of the radioactive waste packages will be built during the first stage of Phipil. They include the railway terminal, the nuclear surface building, the ramps between the surface and the bottom of the tunnels, and the first disposal cells.

They will also include the structures needed for the building and operation of the disposal facility, such as the shafts and the surface and underground installations dedicated to construction work.

The building of the defining infrastructures of the disposal facility will enable testing of their main industrial functions during Phipil.  

When will it be possible for Phipil to be considered as having achieved its objectives?

The results of the consultations conducted by Andra on Phipil will be used by the Agency to improve its project and will also be an input to the PNGMDR, which will set the “objectives and criteria for making the pilot industrial phase successful”. Andra will then have to provide the findings and demonstrations required by the Plan.

At this stage, Andra considers that there is no intangible provisional duration for Phipil. It will last as long as it takes to collect, agree upon and, if possible, share the background information deemed necessary for the Parliament’s decision and the transitioning to the next project phase. Likewise, there are no objectives in terms of number of disposed waste packages or number of required operations.

Andra proposes that the conclusion on the adequacy of the experience feedback derived from Phipil should be drawn collectively, within the scope of governance and the Phipil process itself.  

What about the packages disposed of during Phipil?

According to the plans currently proposed by Andra, Phipil will be used to test and implement the main disposal modes envisaged in Cigéo. They concern vitrified HLW packages (limited to low heat-releasing packages) and LL-ILW packages (encapsulated packages and compacted packages).

The number of packages to be disposeded of  during Phipil cannot be precisely determined at this stage. It depends on many parameters, including Phipil duration and the requirements of the authorities. The larger the number of packages received, the more the experience feedback will be representative.

Not all kinds of radioactive waste packages can be received during Phipil: some are not yet produced and others, already existing, will be progressively licensed at a later date, when all the background information and safety demonstration data have been acquired.  

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