France’s first nuclear power plant was built in 1956, but nuclear power did not play an important role in the country's energy sector until the oil crisis of the 1970's. Today, 78.4% of France’s electricity, or 450 TWh, is produced from nuclear power. France is also one of the few countries that possess all facilities for converting, enriching, fabricating, processing and recycling nuclear materials.
Other industry activities
Industry has long used sources of ionising radiation in a wide variety of applications and locations. Radiation is produced either by radioelements--essentially artificial--in sealed or unsealed sources or by electric generators
Scientific and technological research is performed in nuclear facilities in very varied fields and disciplines, including basic and applied research in physics, metallurgy, electronics, biology, climatology, simulation, chemistry and the environment. Practical nuclear research is concerned with optimising the operation and safety of French nuclear plants, radioactive waste and the development of future nuclear systems.
For more than a century, medicine has used, both for diagnosis and therapy, varied sources of ionising radiation produced either by electric generators or radionuclides. The field is large and diversified, as France has approximately 50,000 facilities for medical and dental diagnostic radiology, around 300 nuclear medicine departments and nearly 400 radiotherapy devices. Overall, these facilities perform nearly 70 million radiological procedures each year.
Transport of radioactive materials
Each year, approximately 900,000 packages of radioactive materials are transported in France, representing a small percentage of shipments of hazardous materials. The largest share (two-thirds) consists of radioisotopes for medical, pharmaceutical or industrial use: this is the case for radioactive sources used for technical inspection in construction (inspection for lead paint) and industry (use of gamma radiography for weld inspection, onsite density inspection, etc.).
Waste / decommissioned facilities
Specific dispositions has to be implemented to manage safely radioactive waste. In France, according to the latest national inventory of materials and waste published by Andra in June 2012, this waste originates mostly from nuclear industry (around 60%). However, it also results from the research in nuclear installations, and use of radioactive items in hospitals, universities, certain non-nuclear industries and defence-related activities. Each type of waste requires specially adapted processing and a long-term management solution to control the risks posed, especially the radiological risk. In France, each waste category has a management solution which includes a series of operations such as sorting, processing, packaging, storage and disposal.