Illustrative image of the EDF companies. - ALAIN JOCARD / AFP

The Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) "alerted" this Tuesday about the risk of "saturation" in the pools of the Orano (ex-Areva) plant in La Hague (Manche), where the spent fuel in the nuclear power plants cools before being retired there. "We expect operators [EDF and Orano] to take the matter into their own hands as soon as possible to create storage capacity, either underwater or dry, but in any case safe, for used fuel", warned Adrien Manchon, head of the Norman division of ASN, who was questioned during a press conference on annual reviews.

“In the very short term and in the short term, there is no risk […]. However, in the longer term, there is a need to find a used fuel storage solution, ”he added. However, “building a facility that stores nuclear waste takes time. This is a subject that needs to be thought through as soon as possible, ”underlined the manager.

Completed within one to two years

According to the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), saturation of the La Hague swimming pools, where approximately 10,000 tonnes of spent fuel are cooled, can gradually block all French reactors. In 2018, IRSN estimated that the La Hague swimming pools would be full at the latest "shortly after 2030". The ASN technical arm had indicated that in “one to two years” the La Hague swimming pools would be filled, if the factory, which is aging, stops and does not restart.

As of January 1, 2016, the percentage of space available in La Hague swimming pools was 7.4%. The quantity of fuel increases by “a few hundred tonnes” per year because EDF sends more fuel to La Hague than Orano retreats, according to IRSN. When the containment was announced in March, part of La Hague's nuclear waste reprocessing activities were put on hold before gradually restarting in mid-April.

In 2018, LREM MP Barbara Pompili, asked that the track of a "dry storage" of spent fuels, widespread in foreign countries, which do not practice reprocessing, French exception, be examined. Site that concentrates the most radioactive material in Europe, Orano La Hague employed on December 31 2,808 people on permanent contract (CDI).


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