A pyramid to warn of a French nuclear waste site?

Tue Nov 8, 2011 7:43am EST
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By Muriel Boselli

PARIS (Reuters) - How can mankind signal to future generations thousands of years from now that hazardous radioactive waste is buried deep underground in eastern France -- by building a giant pyramid, a museum or a site for art projects or by employing geology?

Patrick Charton, who is in charge of a memory project at France's radioactive waste agency Andra, has been grappling with this philosophical question for the past 16 years.

France, the world's most nuclear-dependent country dotted with 58 reactors, has so far stored the radioactive waste produced in the past three decades in above-ground facilities at a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in La Hague on the coast of Normandy.

But this site is vulnerable to a potential terror attack or a plane crash, so the agency is studying the possibility of permanently storing its most highly radioactive waste 500 meters below ground near Bure in eastern France.

The Andra already operates an underground laboratory in Bure, and if the storage project goes ahead, operations would start in 2025 and end around 2175.

The highly radioactive waste, enough to fill a football pitch, takes at least 100,000 years to cease being hazardous.

But how does one keep the memory of the burial site alive years after it is permanently shut?

Charton's team is working on that issue and has listed 26 different areas of study to preserve the memory of the site.   Continued...