France returns waste to Australia

20 October 2015

The specialised vessel BBC Shanghai left Cherbourg in France on 15 October with a shipment of 25t of nuclear waste to Australia for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (Ansto), according to Areva.

The shipment includes a transport cask that contains intermediate-level waste and a separate cask containing low-level technological waste. Ansto said the material will be retained at its Lucas Heights facility until a national radioactive waste management facility is sited, constructed and licensed. The transport is part of a contract signed in 1999 between Areva and Ansto for the processing of used nuclear fuel. Ansto said used nuclear fuel was sent to France for reprocessing in four shipments during the 1990s and early 2000s, and the waste arising is required under French law to have left France by the end of 2015.

The waste, which was reprocessed at Areva's La Hague plant, is the by-product of fuel previously used at the Australian Hifar research reactor at Lucas Heights. The shipment is scheduled to arrive in Australian waters by 27 November.

Greenpeace, French environmental campaign group Robin des Bois and a leading green lawmaker had demanded that the shipment should be halted. Yannick Rousselet of Greenpeace France said the 14-year-old ship "should not be used" to carry the nuclear waste, while Nathalie Geismar from Robin des Bois said other ports had found a "staggering number of flaws" in the ship. However, authorities in the Manche region, who inspected the ship, said they found no problems that could prevent it from sailing or put its crew or cargo in danger. Areva's external relations director Bernard Monnot said some small flaws found in the inspection had been put right.

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