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Nuclear waste disposal, Bure, Meuse, France


A lot of money has already been spent for this hotly contested project. The first step towards the implementation of the storage site known as Cigeo (Centre Industriel de Stockage Géologique) was the construction of the Meuse/Haute Marne Underground Research Laboratory. It is located 500 metres underground in Bure (North Eastern France) in the Meuse department allowing the study of the geological formation in order to evaluate its capacity for deep geological storage of high level and long lived medium level radioactive waste. It is managed by the 'Agence nationale pour la gestion des déchets radioactifs' (Andra). Its construction began in 2000, having been underway since 1994 as a result of the 1991 law on the management of nuclear waste. The signature of a contract between ANDRA and a joint venture of two engineering companies (Technip and Ingérop) in the beginning of 2012 ended this phase of study and research.

With regard to the repository, on one hand, there is an ongoing public debate; on the other hand, ANDRA had to present a blueprint to the government in 2014; if approved by the French National Assembly in 2016, construction would begin the following year. The assembly will then consider licensing the facility to open in 2025. The facility is anticipated to operate for 100 years before final closure although the storage would be reversible.

Nuclear power used to enjoy fairly good cross-party support in the country, and the economic incentives that the storage facility offers to the Bure region have been welcomed by many locals. Anti-nuclear groups also have little clout.

Nevertheless, some small organizations (Burestop 55, Bure Zone Libre and EODRA) are opposing the project and showing their discontent organizing several actions and events. In 2017, a local farmer, J.P. Simon was brought to court for lending a tractor to demonstators ("zadistes", as newspapers called them). The Confederation Paysanne supports him.  (See also a very informative article in the Financial Times in 2016, in Sources and Methods (2), and the update on the demonstrations in 2017 in the section Project Details).

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Nuclear waste disposal, Bure, Meuse, France
State or province:Lorraine
Location of conflict:Bure (Meuse)
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Nuclear waste storage
Specific commodities:Nuclear Waste
Industrial waste

Project Details and Actors

Project details

15 square kilometre of underground storage facility in a geology of thick layers of argillite rock.

Disposability reversible at least for 100 years.

Designed to hold French military and civilian atomic waste classified as having intermediate and high levels of radioactivity, some of which can remain dangerous for more than 100,000 years.

Update.- 2017. There have been local demonstrations from time to time by what newspapers call "zadistes". On August 15, 2017, "Police used water cannon and fired tear gas and stun grenades as they battled with demonstrators protesting at plans to store nuclear waste... Protest organisers said six people were badly hurt and about 30 lightly injured in the clash in Bure. The local prefecture said that, according to calls to the emergency services, at least three demonstrators had been injured. Two gendarmes were hurt by a "home-made device thrown by protestors", the prefecture said... The rally was held to oppose plans to store highly radioactive waste 500 metres (1,640 feet) underground at a nearby site -- the dangerous long-term by-product of France's extensive nuclear energy programme. Debate over Bure has been raging for years, pitching France's vocal environmental lobby against its powerful nuclear industry. In July 2017, the National Agency for the Management of Radioactive Waste (ANDRA) said construction of the storage site would start in 2022 at the earliest. But earlier this month (August 2017), a national watchdog, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), declared it had "reservations" about the project."[1]

The cost of the project could go up to € 25 billion [2].

Project area:1500
Level of Investment:18,500,000,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:30/12/1991
Company names or state enterprises:Gaiya from France - joint venture of Technip and Ingérop (France)
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy., Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, Agence nationale pour la gestion des déchets radioactifs
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:BURESTOP 55 - Collectif Meuse contre l’enfouissement des déchets radioactifs, Bure Zone Libre (BZL), EODRA : Association des Elus de Lorraine et Champagne-Ardenne Opposés à lenfouissement des Déchets RAdioactifs et favorables à un développement durable. Confederation paysanne.

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Confederation paysanne
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
- Protest house: a gathering place for educating and campaigning against the Bure final disposal plans.
- boycott of participation in official processes.


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsDestruction of neolithic archeological remains


Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Demonstrators wounded. Criminalization of farmers who support the struggle.
Development of alternatives:- Change energy policy: move, in a balanced way, from nuclear power to safer sources.
- Try to minimize transport of nuclear waste and empower the whole community to decide on what to do with the existing waste.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project has not yet been approved and the final decision is subject to the outcomes of the ongoing public debate phase. The opponents have decided to boycott the public debate arguing that the decision has been already taken, claiming it is a false debate. There are local demonstrations against the project. sometimes turning violent.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Law 2006-739 de programme relative à la gestion durable des matières et déchets radioactifs from 28th June 2006.

Law 91-1381 from 30th December 1991 called Bataille law.

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Mourot, A.; Godinot, A.; Huvelin, P. Synthèse de la Négation du potentiel géothermique de Bure, Synthèse, 10p., novembre 2006.

Huvelin, P. LANDRA, la transparence et la démocratie: déchets nucléaires et hypothèque de la géothermie en Lorraine, mars 2009.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Bure Zone libre:




Buro Zone


World Nuclear News:

Wikipedia entry on the research lab:

[1] Protesters clash with police at anti-nuclear demo in France (AFP).

[2] Financial Times, 14 July 2016, Nuclear waste: keep out for 100,000 years, by Michael Storhard

Business news:

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Battle to stop nuclear waste being buried in a French village

Photo Gallery Burestop 55:

Déchets nucléaires à Bure : le procès d'un agriculteur pour avoir prêté son tracteur à des zadistes. 2/5/2017.

Article with links to videos:

The Bure Forest – heart of the Ressistance to Nuclear Power in France

2017 August 1, 2017

Common press release from the medic, legal and DIY media team following the demo on the 15 August 2017

In Bure on the 15 August 2017, around 800 people set off on a demo (numbers like this had never been seen before for a non-declared demo in Bure). The prefecture deliberately chose a strategy of aggression and asphyxiation that led to a number of injured people.

Liberation, 2017/08/18/, ENTRETIEN. Manifestation à Bure : «Mon pied a été déchiqueté». Par Raphaël Goument — 18 août 2017

À Bure, l’Andra veut étouffer la lutte paysanne. 2 mai 2017 / Lorène Lavocat (Reporterre). Pour s’assurer la maîtrise de la zone de la « poubelle nucléaire » de Bure, l’Agence nationale de gestion des déchets radioactifs s’est constitué une immense réserve foncière. Si de nombreux paysans ont cédé aux conditions de l’Agence, ce n’est pas le cas de Jean-Pierre Simon, jugé ce mardi pour « complicité » avec les antinucléaires. La Confédération paysanne le soutient.

Other comments:Other interesting websites:
- Bure Zone libre:

Meta information

Contributor:Alfred Burballa Noria
Last update19/08/2017