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Radioactive waste

Radioactive waste is any substance for which no use is intended, and for which the level of radioactivity does not permit uncontrolled discharge into the environment

The Environmental Code states " waste … is any residue of a process of production, processing or of use, any substance, material, product or, more generally, any movable asset abandoned or its holder destined for abandonment. ". It also defines ultimate waste as “no longer likely to be treated under the technical and economic conditions of the moment, in particular by extracting the valuable part or by reducing its polluting or dangerous nature ".

Substances, materials and waste ...: some useful notions

The Environment Code defines a number of concepts

"A radioactive substance is a substance that contains radionuclides, whether natural or man-made, whose activity or concentration warrants radiological protection control". These are mainly nuclear fuels, natural, enriched, depleted or reprocessed uranium and plutonium. Other radioactive substances are waste.

"A radioactive material is a radioactive substance for which further use is planned or envisaged, if necessary after treatment". As part of the power generation process, for example, spent fuel still contains materials that can be used. These materials are processed in France to extract plutonium and uranium. In some cases, the treatment of materials for recovery may result in waste.

"Radioactive waste is a radioactive substance for which no further use is planned or envisaged. The ultimate radioactive waste is radioactive waste which can no longer be treated under the current technical and economic conditions, in particular by extracting their recoverable part or by reducing their polluting or dangerous nature ".

Waste with enhanced natural radioactivity (NRR) is waste generated by the processing of raw materials naturally containing radionuclides, but which are not used for their radioactive properties. Indeed, all substances, including minerals, naturally contain trace elements radioactive elements, including uranium, thorium or potassium. Some non-nuclear industries related to chemistry, metallurgy or energy may be responsible for the production of RNR waste, due to manufacturing or extraction processes that lead to the concentration of natural radionuclides.

"A nuclear fuel is regarded as a spent fuel when, after being irradiated in the core of a reactor, it is permanently removed." Since France has chosen to treat spent fuels in order to recover the recoverable materials they contain, they are not considered as radioactive waste.


radioactive waste per year and per person in France


household waste per year and per person in France


Industrial waste per year and per person in France