ANDRA plans to open an Ecotheque in Bure (Meuse) in 2013. All samples taken as part of the OPE will be stored for at least 100 years in this building, which will be the only one of its kind in France.

Preserving the memory of the environment

The purpose of the Ecotheque is the long-term storage of all samples taken as part of the Permanent Environment Observatory (OPE). This facility will ensure the traceability and integrity of all samples for at least one hundred years. It will preserve the samples that will help define the initial baseline of the site where Cigeo will be built, the future deep geological storage site for radioactive waste in Meuse/Haute-Marne.

The "baseline" is an environmental memory of the site and is made up of environmental sampling projects run over a period of 10 years (2007-2017). While Cigeo is operating and after the site has been closed, other samples will be taken to order to monitor any changes to this initial baseline.

Image of the reception building of the upcoming EcothequeImage of the Ecotheque's sample reception, processing and storage building

Gnat pictures: two views of the upcoming Ecotheque, which is due to open in Bure (Meuse) in 2013.

Sample storage

The ANDRA Ecotheque will offer three storage options for samples, based on their type and analytical purpose:

  1. cryogenic storage at -150°C
  2. deep-freezing at -80°C
  3. dry storage at 18°C, in a soil sample storage facility.

It will be possible to store all types of environmental samples. The intention is to conserve a wide range of samples in the OPE, be they biotic or abiotic and wherever they may come from (forests, meadows, crop fields, aquatic environments or the agricultural supply chain).

Samples are guaranteed to be conserved over a very long period of time, with the equipment used having an operational lifespan of at least 30 years. This notably includes cryogenic tanks, which can store samples in liquid nitrogen for a very long time without damaging their integrity and composition, thus providing us with a long series of perfectly preserved samples.

The sample archiving capability is the only one of its kind in the world, as ultimately the Ecotheque will be able to store:

  • 4 tonnes of dry samples
  • 1.2 tonnes of cryogenically-frozen samples
  • 1 tonne of deep-frozen samples.

These samples will be received, treated, packed and stored in a "processing area" measuring 1,000m².

The entire process of receiving, treating and packing the samples is based on high-quality procedures and tested protocols. The quality of the equipment used must be combined with equally high-quality and rigorous working protocols. An ISO 5 cleanroom will make it possible to conduct ultra-trace analysis on the stored samples.

Ambitious scientific goals

The Ecotheque is part of the infrastructure that will help meet crucial scientific aims in the field of environmental research. It will archive OPE samples, and allow scientists to carry out retrospective analysis and studies that will help improve:

  • the definition of baselines in critical environments subject to increasing pressure from human activity;
  • understanding of the long-term changes in chemodiversity in the environmental compartments observed;
  • identification of appearance of new contaminants;
  • retrospective analysis of environmental quality, using more advanced and refined analytical strategies that will be developed in the future.

Infrastructure unique to France and the world

The ANDRA Ecotheque is one of the most advanced storage facilities of its kind in the world, similar to those of NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) in the US and Fraunhofer in Germany. The storage of environmental samples in specially-designed facilities has been the subject of scientific study for over 30 years. The importance of having a long series of environmental samples that has been preserved in excellent condition by high-quality equipment has long been recognised by the scientific community and public figures. Only this type of equipment is able to guarantee long-term environmental monitoring. In 2009, ANDRA became involved in the international environmental specimen bank.

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