Principles of radioactive waste management
The principles of radioactive waste management are part of a strict regulatory framework, defined at both national and international levels. In addition, France is a signatory to the Joint Convention on the Safety of Radioactive Waste and spent Fuel Management, established under the auspices of the IAEA, which defines the management principles.
At the European level
The Council of the European Union adopted a directive on 19 July 2011 establishing a Community framework for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste from production to storage. This directive covers all stages of the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste resulting from civil activities. Each Member State is ultimately responsible for the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste produced in its territory.
The Directive requires each Member State to establish and maintain a framework providing for the development of national programs for the management of spent fuel and waste, licensing, conducting inventories, controls and inspections, implementing measures such as suspension of operation, division of responsibilities, information and public participation and funding of waste management. In addition, the Directive requires each Member State to establish and maintain a competent regulatory authority for the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste, with certain conditions to ensure its independence.
EC Directive Council Directive 2011/70/Euratom of 19 July 2011
This Directive establishes a Community framework for ensuring responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste to avoid imposing undue burdens on future generations to ensure that Member States provide for appropriate national arrangements for a high level of safety in spent fuel and radioactive waste management, and ensures the provision of necessary public information and participation in relation to spent fuel and radioactive waste management while having due regard to security and proprietary information issues
At the national level
France has defined and implemented a proactive public policy on radioactive waste, in a legislative framework established in 1991 and later modified by the above-mentioned 2006 Planning Act on the sustainable management of radioactive materials and waste This policy has three pillars:
- a National Plan for the Management of Radioactive Materials and Waste (PNGMDR), updated every three years by the State and establishing a program of research and achievements, with a schedule;
- provisions for the independent evaluation of research, public information and dialogue with all stakeholders;
- the guarantee of the availability of the necessary financing: the Environmental Code states that "the costs resulting from measures to prevent, reduce and fight against pollution are borne by the polluter", it is up to the waste producer to finance management costs, including long-term costs.
The general principles of radioactive waste management are the following:
- the sustainable management of radioactive materials and waste of whatever nature, resulting in particular from the operation or dismantling of installations using radioactive sources or materials, with due regard for the protection of personnel health, safety, and the environment,
- in order to avert or limit the burden that will be borne by future generations, research is undertaken and the necessary means for the definitive securing of radioactive waste shall be implemented,
- producers of spent fuel and radioactive waste are responsible for those substances, without prejudice to the responsibility their holders have as nuclear activity operators.
The Environmental Code also establishes as principles :
the prevention or the reduction of the production of waste,
the responsibility of the producers until the elimination of their waste,
the traceability and the need to inform the public.
For radioactive waste, the Environmental Code states that "the sustainable management of radioactive materials and waste of all kinds, especially from the operation or decommissioning of facilities using sources or radioactive material is ensured with respect for the protection of human health, safety and the environment ". Many provisions are implemented to respect this legislative framework:
- requirements for treatment and packaging, transport and facilities: these are defined by the competent authorities, who then monitor their application ;
- modalities to reduce the volume and harmfulness of waste; then, for the waste produced, sorting, treatment, packaging and characterization of the radiological content: they are defined and implemented by the waste producers. Research and development studies are often necessary and are carried out by various bodies, in particular the CEA ;
- the design and construction of receiving facilities with the required level of safety. It is either storage (temporary solution) which generally falls under the responsibility of producers of waste or disposal (final solution) for which Andra is responsible ;
- transport and storage or disposal operations, including monitoring and surveillance aspects, which are necessary for the long term in the case of disposal ;
- provisions to inform the public.