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The French Nuclear Safety Authority issues an opinion on the management of High Level (HLW) and Intermediate Level (ILW) waste

On December 14, 2020, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) published an opinion on studies carried out by Andra and the waste producers on the management of high-level (HL) and long-lived medium-level waste (ILW-LL), within the framework of the National Plan for the Management of Radioactive Materials and Waste (PNGMDR) 2016-2018.

ILW waste before compaction

This opinion contributes to the orientations of the next PNGMDR under development, a plan which was also the subject of a public debate in 2019.

In its opinion, ASN reviews:

  • Management of radioactive waste prior to disposal
  • Disposal of HLW and ILW-LL waste
  • The role of medium-term storage in the HLW and ILW-LL waste management strategy
  • Management of bituminous waste packages

In its opinion, ASN notably reiterates its position concerning long-term storage, expressed in its opinion of 1 February 2006: "long-term storage cannot constitute a definitive solution for the management of high-level waste. In fact, it assumes the maintenance of control on the part of society and the recovery of waste by future generations, which seems difficult to guarantee over periods of several hundred years ".
It also recalls that "the prospects for transmutation on an industrial scale of waste already conditioned from Cigeo's reference inventory are not credible", considering that "if studies on transmutation were to be continued, they should focus on on radioactive substances currently classified as materials or waste produced by a future fleet of reactors and that they are carried out with a view to the development of complete systems, integrating the storage of waste resulting from transmutation and presenting a high level of safety ".


HLW waste mainly consists of vitrified packages containing waste from spent fuel processing. ILW-LL waste, for its part, consists for a large part of the metal structures of spent fuel assemblies after their treatment, or resulting from the operation and maintenance activities of fuel processing plants. The volume of these two categories of waste, once conditioned in primary packages, is estimated at 85,000 m3. In France, the law provides that ultimate radioactive waste which cannot, for reasons of nuclear safety or radiation protection, be stored on the surface or at shallow depth, is subject to deep geological disposal.