October 24, 2021

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Nuclear: Is it true that we “don’t know how to dismantle” French power stations?

Constraints – Environmental entry-level candidate Sandrine Russo, at LCI, has defended her desire to get out of nuclear power. She also pointed the finger at plants that “we don’t know how to break down,” an assertion worth qualifying.

On the LCI podium Wednesday night, Sandrine Russo discussed her opponent from the environmental primaries, Yannick Gadot. Among the topics of discussion between the candidates: nuclear power and its place in our energy mix.

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Convinced of the need to get out of nuclear power, Sandrine called Rousseau to stand up to this thorny issue. “Today, we look at nuclear energy only in terms of the carbon dioxide it emits into the atmosphere and the fact that it emits less than other energies”I regret it. “But nuclear energy is also waste, power plants that today we don’t know how to dismantle.” questionable statement.

There is no major obstacle to working power plants

When discussing the dismantling of power plants, it is necessary to proceed on a case-by-case basis. Over the past 50 years, different technologies have already been used in France, so that not all reactors have identical characteristics. So far, we note that no power plant has been completely dismantled in France, despite the shutdown of the reactors for more than 40 years.

On the side of SFEN, a scientific pro-nuclear society, we supports This “Knows how to dismantle reactor technology used in the current nuclear fleet”, Which Pressurized water reactors Often referred to by the acronym “REP”. Those, Dixit Parliamentary media report from February 2017, based on the technology that “Looks like it poses fewer technical problems.” for the purpose of disassembly. At the end of the hearings, the deputies came to the following observation: “In light of the responses from most of our interlocutors, we have no reason to doubt that EDF will be able to carry out its deconstruction from a technical point of view.”

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If some kind of optimism prevails for the 56 active reactors (and the two recently closed atomizers at Fessenheim), it is in part because of the successful dismantling observed abroad of identical technology. Thus the American example of Main Yankee is regularly taken as an example, providing indications regarding the costs incurred by these operations. “In France, the decommissioning site of the Schuse A reactor in the Ardennes, in 2007, began on schedule and within budget”, glides with confidence in SFEN.

Old power plants, real swamp

When we talk about the dangers of decommissioning, all eyes are on the oldest reactors in the French fleet, which are now fixed. There are 12 in total, 9 of which are based on “natural uranium graphite gas” (UNGG) technology and are mostly managed by EDF. Two others used liquid sodium to cool them: the experimental Phénix reactor in Marcoule (Gard), as well as a prototype called Superphénix in Creys-Malville (Isère). The last reactor, closed in 1985 at Brennilis (Finisterre), is said to be “heavy water” and gas cooled.

These old reactors now pose multiple problems, which were raised by parliamentarians in 2017. The company officials interviewed in fact realized that with regard to UNGG type reactors, we are in “Facing an ‘unresolved industrial-scale’ technical difficulty”. He explained that the EDF wanted “Verifying how it was dismantled in the first reactor, by about 2060, before the other five reactors, over the next 40 years.” At present, the dismantling of the nine reactors is still pending, subject to technological progress. If EDF’s predictions prove correct, the reactors in question will finally be dismantled more than 100 years after their eventual shutdown.

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In response to a question from the LCI, the EDF states that dismantling has already begun at these various locations, but the most difficult phase has only begun since then We are now working on the radioactive part.. reactor core Too long and too compact It is a huge challenge. Especially since we don’t have “There is no experience in the world today of this kind of dismantling”, slip action. Finally, let’s add that the situation is not much simpler with regard to the Brenelles and the Superphénix in Creys-Malville. Parliamentarians pointed out in their work “Atypical reactors whose dismantling continues for a long time in pain”.

The issue of waste is unforgettable

The last hurdle to overcome in decommissioning relates to the management of radioactive waste. The current storage sites are already insufficient to hold all of those that will be moved once the reactors are converted into parts. Hence the need to consider long-term solutions, with the selection of new sites or by expanding existing sites.

Clogged ports for certain types of low or very low level radioactive waste slows down the dismantling processAnd the parliamentary media report of 2017, confirmed, without mentioning the local protests of the population against the areas where the storage sites are located. In fact, few citizens welcome this type of facility with open arms, especially when it comes to maintaining moderate or high degree of radioactive waste.

The Bure site, which straddles the Meuse and Haute-Marne sides, has crystallized multiple tensions in recent years and has been the target of anti-nuclear activists. A few days ago, justice Rule Six of these opponents were imprisoned or suspended. In addition to questions about the very long-term safety of these sites, public authorities have to deal with people who often oppose the burial of radioactive waste in nearby basements. An additional hitch on the periphery of disassembly is already more than complicated.

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Do you want to ask us questions or provide us with information that you think is unreliable? Feel free to write to us at [email protected] You can also find us on Twitter: our team is behind the account @verif_TF1LCI.

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