A landslide within the underground laboratory operated by French waste management agency Andra near Bure in the Meuse/Haute Marne area on 26 January killed one person and injured another.

The laboratory is assessing the site’s suitability for a national radioactive waste repository. Andra said the working face of the gallery within the laboratory collapsed while geophysical surveys were being carried out, which involved drilling. The gallery has been evacuated and its stability is being assessed.

Andra is analysing the causes of the accident, and a police investigation under the supervision of the prosecutor of the municipality of Bar-le-Duc has been launched to determine the precise circumstances.

France plans to construct the Centre Industriel de Stockage Géologique (Cigéo) repository – an underground system of disposal tunnels, known as galleries – at a depth of some 500m in a natural layer of clay near Bure. The facility is intended to hold 2700 cubic metres of high-level radioactive waste and about 40,000 cubic metres of long-lived intermediate-level radioactive waste.

It is to be financed by radioactive waste generators – EDF, Areva and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, and will be managed by Andra. No radioactive material has yet been placed within the facility, which is awaiting the government’s final investment decision.