The 15 year research on high level and long lived radioactive waste disposal in deep geological formations is being carried out by the ANDRA within the framework of the 1991 law. The status of the research program corresponds to the sinking of the shafts of the Meuse/Haute-Marne Underground Research Laboratory in an argilite layer.
A set of preliminary concepts associated to this argillite layer has been studied to help address the issues raised by the feasibility analysis of a potential repository with respect to safety objectives. These concepts deal with transuranic no heat emitting waste, high level vitrified waste and potentially disposed spent fuel.
Provision is made for a high level of flexibility, in particular regarding the reversibility of the step by step disposal process.
The architecture of the repository concepts distinguishes disposal zones dedicated respectively to transuranic (type B) waste, vitrified high level (type C) waste, UOX and MOX spent fuel (if the case arrises). Each zone is itself divided into modules. The modular design, which segregates the waste categories, guarantees in particular the flexibility of the repository to contend with potential variations in inventory or waste management modes. This makes it possible to study the feasibility of disposal of each type of waste, in an independent way from the others.
For each disposal zone and waste category, current studies, including safety and cost analysis, enable to compare various design options of the disposal cells and modules, prior to selecting those which will be presented in 2005.
The paper mentions research targets of the program aiming at answering major scientific and technological questions raised by the concepts.
The next milestone of the research program is scheduled at the end of the year 2001. It aims at tuning the approach to be used to assess the feasibility of disposal by 2005.
The design will progressively benefit from the research carried out in the Meuse/Haute Marne underground research laboratory and other fields: The resulting data make it possible to fit the models used to dimension the structures, especially in the 2002–2005 period.