EDF plans new central storage site for nuclear waste

PARIS (Reuters) - French state-controlled utility EDF EDF.PA plans to build a new central storage pool for nuclear waste but has not yet decided on a site, the company said.

The logo of France's state-owned electricity company EDF is seen on the company's headquarters in Paris, France, November 24, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

French environment news site Reporterre on Tuesday wrote that EDF plans to build a central spent-fuel pool on the grounds of its Belleville-sur-Loire nuclear plant, which could receive up to 8,000 tonnes of spent fuel, the equivalent of up to about 90 reactor cores.

Spent fuel from nuclear reactors remains highly radioactive for thousands of years and all countries using nuclear energy struggle with the question of where to store it safely.

An EDF spokesman confirmed that the utility, at the request of nuclear regulator ASN and the environment ministry, is studying the possibility of building such a site and will send a proposal to the ASN, by 2019 at the latest. The choice of a site would be made around 2020.

He said the central pool would be built on the site of one of its 19 nuclear plants and that it would receive the spent fuel of all of EDF’s 58 nuclear reactors.

Late last month, Philippe Sasseigne, the head of EDF’s French nuclear fleet, said a central pool was being considered because the spent fuel pools at the La Hague nuclear plant could be full by 2030.

Reporterre said Belleville had been selected because of its central location and good railway connections, and because it has ample space. Only two reactors were built on a site meant to accommodate four.

An ASN spokeswoman said the regulator is studying the security requirements for a central spent-fuel storage pool but that no site had been chosen.

Spent fuel is usually left to cool in pools next to nuclear reactors before being shipped to central pools or permanent storage facilities.

France has a project to store long-life nuclear waste 500 metres below ground in impermeable clay in Bure, eastern France, but the plan has not yet received government approval and is strongly opposed by local groups and environmentalists.

Meanwhile, the La Hague reprocessing site acts as a de facto nuclear waste storage site as France has no permanent solution for deep geological storage.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq and Benjamin Mallet; editing by Richard Lough