Caspian Energy (CE): After the Fukushima accident the EU is very sensitive about radioactive energy sources and tends to reduce their use. Do you view this danger as inescapable for future generations, and how is it possible to limit their use?
Christophe Bouillon, Chairman of the Board of the ANDRA, the French National Radioactive Waste Management Agency: ANDRA is a public entity whose role is to ensure that all French radioactive waste is made safe, permanently. Whatever the nuclear policy adopted, radioactive waste exists and it is our responsibility to manage it, so that the burden is not passed on to future generations.
Radioactive waste management in France is regulated by 2 Acts (1991 and 2006). Every 3 years, a national radioactive waste and materials management plan evaluates current and long-term management methods and determines the objectives for the coming years. This management is also supported by a very broad consensus in favour of disposal, both within the international scientific community and inside the European Union (European Directive 2011/70/EURATOM of 19th July, establishing a community framework for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste).
(CE): Your work is sometimes characterized as burial of time bombs. Hoes does ANDRA (The French National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management) minimize the risks in the area of radioactive waste? What innovations are used in your activities?
Christophe Bouillon: The aim of deep disposal is to provide very long-term protection of man and the environment from the hazards linked to the most radioactive waste. The long-term safety of the disposal facility must be passive and not be dependent on human actions. This is in particular based on the choice of the geological medium and the design of the disposal facility. This solution remains safe over the long-term, even if the location of the site is forgotten. To achieve this long-term safety requirement, all disposed of waste are stabilized in a solid form, with different types of matrices depending on the characteristics of the waste. In any case, non-stabilized or even liquid waste are not qualified for long-term safety.
The safety measures envisaged by Andra are assessed by the French nuclear safety regulator (ASN) and by French and foreign scientific committees.
(CE): Are the nuclear energy producers commercially stimulated to practice a correct waste utilization?
Christophe Bouillon: Owing to its status as a Public Agency and its public interest role, Andra has a duty to ensure that the various French and international stakeholders are made aware of and assisted in the responsible management of their waste. This role in particular consists of reminding each party of its duties in terms of radioactive waste management, proposing innovative management solutions and ensuring that the producers incorporate radioactive waste issues into their processes at a very early stage, more specifically in order to reduce waste volumes. In that particular field, Andra has launched a programme targeting research institutes as well as companies within and out of the nuclear field in order to encourage innovation to optimize waste management and reduce waste volumes.
(CE): What do you think about the radioactive waste disposal technologies currently applied in the today's CIS (former USSR)? Are they safe? What danger do they pose to the region, water resources, and biodiversity?
Christophe Bouillon: As far as we know, these Radon type facilities were designed for temporary storage and not for final long-term disposal. It is therefore, as already requested by the RF Radon (but without follow-up), to update studies and design improvements where and when these storage cells can be upgraded to disposal facilities, and their safety has still to be demonstrated.
(CE): How to identify those who violate safety standards, and what measures would you suggest for making this area as transparent as possible for the population? Which international sanctions can be envisaged in this case?
Christophe Bouillon: This is to be answered by international agencies, like the International Atomic energy Agency of the UN.
(CE): What prospects do you see in the ‘Circular Economy Package’ put forward by the European Commission if only it can be referred to your activities? How can ANDRA (The French National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management) contribute (provide assistance) to promoting Europe's transition to the circular economy?
Christophe Bouillon: The French policy is already clearly defined with the recycling issue, making waste to disposal as low as reasonably possible. Andra already provides its services to many countries, based on the French experience.
Thank you for the interview
Interview made by Sabina Mammadova and Olga Nagiyeva