The Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), an independent administrative authority set up by law 2006-686 of 13 June 2006 concerning nuclear transparency and safety (known as the “TSN law”) is tasked, on behalf of the State, with regulating nuclear safety and radiation protection in order to protect workers, patients, the public and the environment from the risks involved in nuclear activities. It also contributes to informing the citizens.
Radioactive waste management
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.
The 2006 “Planning act” for sustainable management of radioactive materials and waste requires elaboration every three years of a national plan for management of radioactive materials and waste. This national Plan, drafted by ASN and the General directorate for energy and climate (DGEC) is submitted to the parliament and published. It draws up a periodic assessment of radioactive substances management. In addition it sets milestones and defines studies to be carried out in order to improve existing management routes and define new ones. This plan requires that management routes shall be defined for every type of waste, whatever are its activity, its lifetime, its origin.
Around 90% of the volume of radioactive waste produced already has a long-term management solution (mainly very low level waste and low and intermediate level short-lived waste). Other waste is packaged and stored in secure facilities while a long-term management solution is sought. in terms of radioactivity, more than 90% of radioactive waste is located at the La Hague site in northwest France and to a lesser extent at the Marcoule site in the south of the country.
ASN prepares and reviews regulation pertaining to the management of radioactive waste, takes part of licensing process and monitors the safety of basic nuclear installations that produces waste or are involved in waste management (treatment, packaging, storage and disposal). Il also performs inspections in sites where waste are produced or managed (EDF, Orano, Andra and CEA basic nuclear installations but also in hospitals, research centres, etc.).
In addition, ASN monitors the overall system set up by Andra for accepting waste from producers, assesses strategies defined by operators to manage safely their waste and the dedicated assets they define in order to cover the future cost of decommissioning of their facilities and of management of their spent fuel and radioactive waste.
Dismantling nuclear facilities
The civilian nuclear industry in France first started to grow in the 1960's. Several facilities built during that period are at the end of their service life and are no longer producing or used for research. As part of their dismantling, they will undergo a series of remediation and deconstruction operations.
In 2010, more than thirty nuclear facilities, including eight reactors from EDF's first nuclear power fleet, are currently in the permanent shutdown and dismantling phase.
Dismantling nuclear facilities usually requires lengthy operations that are challenges for the operators in terms of project management, continued proficiency and coordination of various work efforts. Radioactive material must be removed and the facility dismantled and cleaned up. These operations present special issues in terms of dosimetry, since workers must be in frequent contact with equipment that contains radioactive substances in order to dismantle it; management of radioactive waste, which is produced in much greater quantities than during the operation phase; traditional risks to the extent that certain dismantling operations are part of deconstruction work performed by the construction industry; risks related to the loss of design and operating plans and loss of proficiency; risks related to inadequate monitoring that can lead to long-term pollution of the site or its surroundings.
The safety of these facilities in the dismantling process rests first with verification by the operator of the facility. In this framework, ASN monitors each facility that the organisation and methods adopted by the operator are sufficient to exercise this responsibility. In addition to individual dismantling of each facility, ASN monitors that overall strategies of producers are part of a consistent approach for taking into account safety and radiation protection constraints. The significant nature of current dismantling programmes requires rigorous planning that takes into account all parameters related to safety and radiation protection: facility ageing, work strategy, choice of technical scenario and safety priorities.