ASN and ASND issue a joint position statement on CEA’s decommissioning and materials and waste management strategy
Thirty-nine CEA nuclear facilities have been finally shut down or are being decommissioned. This number has been constantly rising for the past few years. Since the 2000s, ASN and ASND – the Defence Nuclear Safety Authority – have observed significant delays in the decommissioning and waste retrieval and conditioning (RCD) projects.
In July 2015, ASN and ASND thus asked CEA to conduct an overall review of its strategy for the decommissioning of its facilities and materials and waste management, for the next 15 years. CEA forwarded the results of this work in December 2016.
Given the number and complexity of the operations to be performed for all the nuclear facilities concerned, CEA defined priorities based primarily on analysis of the potential hazards, in order to reduce the risks presented by these facilities. The priority operations more specifically concern certain individual facilities of the Marcoule DBNI (defence BNI), as well as BNIs 72 in Saclay and 56 in Cadarache.
ASN and ASND reviewed this file, with the support of IRSN, the Advisory Committees for laboratories and plants (GPU) and for waste (GPD), as well as the laboratories and plants and waste management safety commission (CSLUD).
ASN and ASND consider that the definition of the facilities decommissioning strategy and the update of the waste and materials management strategy at CEA, are the result of extensive work. Given the resources allocated by the State and the large number of facilities being decommissioned, for which legacy waste retrieval capacity as well as storage capacity will need to be built, it would appear to be acceptable for CEA to envisage phased decommissioning operations. This phasing is a means of limiting the annual cost of the operations but, given the measures needed to supervise and maintain a sufficient state of safety in the lower-priority facilities, it would entail an increase in the ultimate cost.
However, in the light of the planned timetables presented, even if there are no unforeseen events and delays in the projects, risk reduction will not be effective before a decade at best. Numerous RCD projects, classified as high-priority, require the creation or prior refurbishment of the retrieval, conditioning and storage resources for radioactive waste and materials, along with the corresponding transport operations. According to CEA’s analysis, the construction of the main new RCD facilities requires significant investment. So, despite the pertinent organisation recently put into place by CEA to manage its long-term decommissioning programme, ASN and ASND are concerned by the robustness of CEA’s action plan, and its ability, in terms of human and financial resources, to deal as early as possible with all situations with the most important implications in terms of safety or environmental detrimental effects.
The two authorities observe several weak points in CEA’s strategy, notably owing to the envisaged pooling between centres, for example for managing aqueous radioactive effluents or solid radioactive waste which means that, for certain operations, there would only be a single facility. This strategy leads on the one hand to a significant rise in the number of shipments and, on the other, to considerable uncertainties regarding the availability of the radioactive materials and waste treatment, conditioning and storage facilities, as well as of transport packagings.
The two authorities also note uncertainties regarding the management of spent fuels or irradiated materials, which will need to be clarified.
ASN and ASND thus submitted a number of requests to CEA with a view to remedying these weak points, consolidating its strategy and clarifying the performance schedule.
They ask that CEA regularly report on the progress of the decommissioning and waste management projects and that regular communication with the public be instituted, in accordance with procedures appropriate to the nature of the facilities, whether civil or defence. Finally, they ask that specific oversight measures be adopted with regard to the progress of these projects.
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