No deep nuclear disposal, says French minister

Former environment minister's "personal view" pre-empts official policy statement

A former French environment minister, Ségolène Royal, has pre-empted an official review of nuclear waste disposal policy by suggesting that a deep underground repository will be ruled out. Speaking last week at a regional conference of the governing socialist party, Ms Royal, who is currently education minister, said: "the government is preparing to abandon the [option of] deep disposal of nuclear waste".

Official sources have denied that Ms Royal's statement reflects government policy. A spokesperson at the environment ministry described her comments as personal and stressed that deep disposal was still one of three options being considered for high-level nuclear waste. The other two are processing to make it less dangerous and long-term storage at shallow disposal sites.

The National Agency for Management of Radioactive Waste (ANDRA) began geological research in 1994 into possible sites to locate two underground "research laboratories". The search for deep disposal sites had been mandated by a 1991 law on radioactive waste management.

Three sites were shortlisted, in the Gard, Meuse and Vienne departments, and public inquiries were held in February and March this year, amid strong opposition to the projects from local residents. A final decision on a location for the two underground sites is to be made by 2006.

In recent weeks, Green and socialist MPs have been calling for a revision of the 1991 law. The government is due to make a statement on the different scenarios by the end of this year. Pierre Samuel of Friends of the Earth France hopes that the government will abandon the deep disposal option.

Follow Up:
ANDRA, tel: +33 1 46 11 80 00 ; Friends of the Earth France, tel: +33 1 48 87 33 44.

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