French delegation meets community

28 February 2017

French delegation meeting in Kimba

The department hosted a delegation from France which met community members at Port Augusta, Quorn, Hawker and Kimba in the week starting February 6.

A total of 250 people came to public presentations while another 50 took part in smaller meetings.

The delegation included representatives from the French radioactive waste management agency, ANDRA, and two mayors from the local community in the Aube region, one of whom also farms in the area.

The visitors described their first-hand experiences about what it was like to work at and live around a radioactive waste management facility.

The Aube facility in France is about 100 hectares in size, the same size as the facility we are proposing.

The Aube facility is designed for the permanent disposal of low and short-lived intermediate-level waste, whereas our facility is for the permanent disposal of low level waste plus the proposed temporary storage of intermediate-level waste.

More than 100 wine and champagne producers have their grapes and production facilities less than 30 kilometres from ANDRA’s facility.

ANDRA has been in the area since mid-1980s, and they work with Champagne makers in the region to ensure they provide transparent and accurate information on all aspects of the facility.

The community does its own independent environmental testing to confirm ANDRA’s results and is funded independently by the Local Commission for Information.

Read the presentation given by ANDRA.

Here are some questions asked by community members and answers given by the French delegation:

How close to the facility are nearby farms and residences and have you noticed over the years any changes in birth rates or similar issues to stock?

Some farms operate right up to the boundary of the facility. Pierre Jobard, Champagne and cattle farmer who is part of the delegation, said parts of his farm were less than 1km away and that stock in the area had not been affected. “I have not had any problems like this on my farm,” Mr Jobard said.

“However I think it is very important to ensure you fully inform yourself of proposals, like a facility.

“We have built a good trusting relationship with the facility operators over the years.” ANDRA and the community work together continually to maintain trust.

What economic benefit is there for the community?

ANDRA is required to pay taxes through the course of its normal operation. But the delegation said the most important benefit seen by local politicians was that new people moved to the area. This ensured the ongoing provision of services and a better quality of life. Population has increased since the construction of the Aube facility, after a long term decline that is typical in many rural areas.

Would you build a facility in a flood prone area?

Director of the Aube Disposal Facility, Patrice Torres, said the facility he managed was in an area that can experience flooding. The constraints of a particular site needed to be taken into account and the facility designed accordingly within those so the facility was constructed appropriately.

This was achievable with modern construction methods.

Isn’t it true that the facility leaks tritium?

Director of the Aube Disposal Facility, Patrice Torres, said the CSA facility has multiple man-made and geological barriers that ensure safety, and there has never been an incident there that
has resulted in a leak, or risk to human health or the environment.

There have been some claims the facility in France leaks tritium, a radioactive element used in some emergency exit signs, and those claims are untrue. The now-closed CSM facility in western France used a method of packaging waste into cells without a roof, and heavy rainfall caused slightly elevated tritium levels to be found in the surrounding environment.

For context, the levels were so low that they were many times below the maximum drinking water threshold. ANDRA learnt from this and now packages the waste containers into cells with a specially designed roof.

It has not had similar measurements for around 30 years because of the lessons learned.

Winegrowers became upset because the opponents to the facility have tried to turn them against ANDRA via a campaign focused on “radioactive champagne “, which is totally untrue and unfounded.