Today, almost all countries use radioactivity for medical, industrial or research applications. Such activities (also referred to as “small-scale nuclear activities” or “diffuse nuclear sector”) generate radioactive waste and it generally includes both very-low-level (VLL) & low-level short-lived (LL-SL) waste. Scattered all over the country, these activities involve many operators and owners varying in size (from a large hospital centre to the private expert using a lead detector) and in the level of their safety culture.
The management of radioactive waste resulting from the diffuse nuclear sector imposes organisational constraints, such as characterisation and conditioning, temporary and long-term management. In all cases, the take-over of the waste should not burden the owners with excessive costs, since they might be inclined to abandon them carelessly.
First and foremost, it is therefore necessary, in the short term, to implement temporary storage mechanisms for such waste in order to protect populations and the environment. Second, the implementation of a nuclear-power programme can provide an opportunity to organise and, hence, to finance the joint management of the waste originating from both the nuclear industry and small-scale nuclear activities.
The objective is to set up a multi-step process, as follows:
Andra is responsible for the management of all radioactive waste produced in France. This includes the securing of French sites where industrial, medical and research activities have led to radioactive pollution.
On behalf of the community, the Agency is therefore called upon to manage polluted sites: old industrial plants, laboratories, schools, etc. In the Paris suburbs, for instance, Andra cleaned up homes that had been built on the site of a former company which used radium. The Agency is also intervening in Southern France to clean up a site where the former operator has abandoned radioactive products.
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