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For years now I've heard how France stores all its nuclear waste in a single room at La Hague. It never quite believed it but now I do now. Two weeks ago, I got to stand in that room.

What they say about France is true: the country has mastered nuclear technology. It has the lowest greenhouse emissions of any industrial nation while importing only half as much natural gas from Russia as either Britain or Germany. There are even signs around Paris directing you to stations where you can recharge your electric car. It's time Britons took note of these things. There's going to be no way to deal with global warming or the looming oil shortage without nuclear energy.

France's nuclear reprocessing centre sits on a promontory overlooking the English Channel. Here, spent fuel assemblies arrive from France's 59 reactors plus a few others in Belgium and other countries.

These assemblies are dangerous, of that there is no doubt. There's nothing more radioactive on earth and possibly in the solar system. But plenty of other dangerous industrial materials are handled in the same way. You just have to plan and be vigilant.

Half-an-hour after arriving at the complex, after going through elaborate security procedures, we found ourselves standing in front of a 2ft-thick window looking into the initial processing room. Sure enough, there was a 20ft nuclear fuel assembly rising through the floor like some sinister benthic organism being hauled from the deep. With its long vertical lines of black and white, the assemblies looked eerily like a model of the World Trade Center.

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Dr Len
March 24th, 2010
10:03 PM
But what do they do with the waste? The highly radioactive waste. Oh, they are studying it LOL A research program to study high-level radioactive waste disposal began with legislation enacted in 1991. The French Waste Management Research Act of December 1991 authorized 15-year studies of three management options for high-level or long half-life radioactive waste. They included separation and/or transmutation, long-term storage, and geologic disposal. One site under consideration for deep geologic disposal in clay is currently being studied. The French are also searching for a granite site to research. http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/factsheets/doeymp0411.shtml

anon_sceptic
July 27th, 2009
1:07 PM
Areva's latest big reactor project is 3 years late and billions of euros over budget. There is also a question about whether the UK nuclear inspectorate will allow the same design in the UK at all. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8138869.stm Perhaps a little premature to say France has 'mastered nuclear technology'.

uvdiv_blog
July 27th, 2009
10:07 AM
I found a photo of this room: http://www.daylife.com/photo/08IA9lS1Rx30j

Dr J
January 14th, 2009
2:01 AM
The French may be a broken clock, but even a broken clock is right twice daily. They're right on this.

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