ASN regulates safety as vitrified nuclear waste from spent fuel reprocessing is returned to Germany

Published on 22/11/2011 • 03:15 pm

Information notice

ASN, the French Nuclear Safety Authority, is responsible for regulating nuclear safety in connection with radioactive waste shipments and for keeping the public informed in such matters.

Left: example of a universal canister for vitrified waste

Eleven Castor HAW 28 M casks containing 301 canisters of vitrified waste were recently shipped from La Hague in France to the German waste storage facility in Gorleben (Lower Saxony), under an intergovernmental[1] agreement on the return to Germany of radioactive waste resulting from the reprocessing in France of German spent fuel. Within this context, ASN conducted several checking operations and public information actions.

The high-level radioactive waste concerned by this shipment was placed in Castor HAW 28 M casks approved by the relevant Germany authority and ASN.

 ASN checks compliance with regulations[2] - most of which are international - during its review of package approval applications and during shipment inspections. The regulations ensure that:

  • casks intended for this type of shipment are designed to guarantee the containment of radioactive material, sub-criticality[3] and radiological protection under all circumstances, including in the event of a serious transport accident[4]
  • the dose equivalent rate does not exceed 0.1 millisieverts per hour (mSv/h) at a distance of two metres from the transport vehicle. At the above dose level, a person would have to remain within two metres of the vehicle for an uninterrupted period of ten hours in order to reach the annual exposure limit (1 mSv) defined by regulations for the public.

ASN organised an inspection at La Hague on 27-28 September 2011 to ensure that AREVA performed the leak, temperature and radiation protection tests required by regulations before shipping the packages. During this inspection, ASN asked IRSN, the Institute for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection, to carry out radiation protection measurements around the packages to ensure that radiological exposure limits, both on contact with the packages and two metres from the transport vehicles, were not exceeded.

ASN inspection at La Hague on 27-28 September 2011

On Friday 18 November 2011, ASN organised another inspection, this time at the La Hague railway terminal. This inspection was mainly concerned with ensuring that radiological exposure limits were not exceeded in the vicinity of the waste shipment train. ASN called on experts from IRSN and ACRO (the Association for Radioactivity Monitoring in Western France) to perform various measurements as part of this inspection. Representatives of the La Hague local information committee (CLI) (namely a Greenpeace member representing associations on the CLI , a CGT member representing trade unions on the CLI, and the CLI representative for experts) were able to attend radiological measurement operations around the train, as was a representative of the association “stop EPR ni à Penly ni ailleurs”, who is a member of the Penly local information committee.

ASN inspection at the Valogne terminal on 18 November: independent radiation protection measurements by IRSN and ACRO on behalf of ASN

On 17 November 2011, ASN reported to the French High Committee for Transparency and Information on Nuclear Security (HCTISN) on the checks it carried out on the Castor HAW 28 M packages and on their shipment from La Hague to Germany.

ASN also updated an explanatory article about safety in radioactive material transport on its website.

 Since 1997, ASN has been responsible for regulating safety in the transport of radioactive and fissile materials intended for civil use. Its responsibilities in this area were confirmed by French Act No. 2006-686 of 13 June 2006 relative to transparency and security in the nuclear field, known in France as the TSN Act. In order to protect the environment and health of workers and the general public, activities in this area are aimed at controlling all the irradiation, contamination and criticality risks associated with radioactive material transport packages and preventing any damage from heat.

Valognes terminal, 18 November 2011: ASN inspection during the transfer of a Castor HAW 28 M package from a truck coming from La Hague and a railway car destined for Germany.

[1] Decree No. 2008-1369 of 19 December 2008 relative to an agreement, based on an exchange of letters between the Government of the French Republic and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, on the transport of packages containing radioactive waste from spent fuel reprocessing, from the French Republic to the Federal Republic of Germany, signed in Paris on 20 and 28 October 2008.

[2] These regulations, enforced in France through an Order known as the “Transport of Dangerous Goods Order” (or “TMD” order), are based on a safety standard developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (Safety Requirements TS-R-1), which covers the carriage of goods by road, through the European “ADR” agreement, and by rail through the international “RID” regulations.

3] Sub-criticality is the guarantee of the necessary safety conditions to prevent an unwanted nuclear chain reaction.

 [4] Tested by dropping the package from a height of 9 m - which represents an impact of around 50 km/h - onto an unyielding surface, and from a height of 1 m onto a punch for the puncture test, followed by a fully engulfing fire of at least 800°C for 30 minutes. A water immersion test is also required.

Date of last update : 08/06/2017