Waste management begins with the nuclear plant design, proceeds during the operating life of the installation through concern for limitation of the volume of waste produced, of its noxiousness and of the quantity of residual radioactive materials contained. It ends up with waste elimination (recycling or final disposal) via the intervening stages of identification, sorting, treatment, packaging, transport and storage. All operations associated with management of a category of waste, from production to disposal, constitute a waste management route, each of which must be adapted to the type of waste concerned.
The operations within each route are interlinked and all the routes are interdependent. These operations and routes form a system which has to be optimised in the context of an overall approach to radioactive waste management encompassing safety, traceability and volume reduction issues.
It is to be noted that long-term management solutions exist in France (repositories) for the categories of radioactive waste which represents the major volumes (but with a low radioactive content): the short-lived low- and intermediate-level waste (LIL-SL waste) and the very-low-level waste (VLL waste). The existing solutions are briefly described as follows: