France has the second largest civilian nuclear program in the world, with 59 reactors in operation. In 2000, French nuclear plants had a total capacity of 63.2 GW and produced 76% of the country’s power, a higher percentage than in any other country.
Disposal of nuclear waste is the responsibility of ANDRA (Agence Nationale pour la Gestion des Dechets Radioactifs). Waste is classified according to half-life as well as activity. Waste having half-life less than 30 years is designated as ‘‘short-lived’’ (SL), and waste having half-life greater than 30 years is designated as ‘‘long-lived’’ (LL). Four activity levels are defined: very low-level waste (VLLW), low-level waste (LLW), intermediate-level waste (ILW), and high-level waste (HLW).
The Centre de la Manche Disposal Facility, located near Cherbourg in Normandy, operated from 1969 to 1994 as a disposal site for LLW and ILW. Initially, waste was placed in simple trenches. Over the years, the EMCB concept was developed. The la Manche facility holds nearly 530,000 m3 of waste and is no longer accepting waste shipments.
In 1992, the Centre de l’Aube Disposal Facility near Troyes began accepting low – and intermediate – level waste (LILW-SL). The Centre de l’Aube has a capacity of 1 million m3, expandable to 2 million m3.