Stocamine* and Cigéo** in the Same Boat

11 Mar 2014

*Stocamine at Wittelsheim near Mulhouse was a center for deep Storage- 550 meters- for non-recyclable and non-radioactive toxic waste in a salt bed. Between February 1999 and September 2002, 44,000 tons of waste has been stored there.

** Cigéo is at the borders of the Meuse and Haute-Marne is an in depth storage project – 500 meters – for non-recyclable radioactive waste in a layer of clay.


In 1997, the prefectural authorization for Stocamine included a 30-year operation and demanded removal of the after that term except in case of an authorization renewal. Reversibility was accompanied by technical and financial provisions ensuring, at any time, the withdrawal of all or some of the waste.

In 2003, one year after the fire in the storage block n°15, the French state, principal shareholder of Stocamine and its head company Mines de Potasse d’Alsace, had decided to stop the underground storage operation of dangerous waste. This decision was made due to a lack of profit of the company faced with competition from the salt mines in Germany and the availability of surface storage in France. From the State’s point of view, Stocamine was no longer a strategic asset for the management of waste from the French industry.

In 2014, 11 years after the end of the Stocamine storage, a simple partial withdrawal representing less than 10% of the waste packages is supposed to start in the weeks to come. When Stocamine should have been destocked with a high-speed train, it is an omnibus that arrives, hesitant and breathless at Wittelsheim. Yet, it must be mentioned that the stationmaster is the former director of coal mines of France, who left the mines’ bottom and surfaces in a state of neglect such that the inventory of consequences for the population and environment after the coal era will not be completed before several centuries.

According to the predictions made by INERIS- The National Institute of Industrial Environment and Risks – technical support of the state and of Stocamine, the Health quality of the Rhin’s groundwater will not be threatened by the plume of contaminated brine and concentrations of mercury and other poisons will not exceed the maximum levels fixed by the WHO and the European Directives. It will be observed that the Institute appears to be already familiar with the regulations that will apply in the next millennium.

INERIS conditions its favorable opinion to the scenario used for implementation and on effectiveness over the long-term of engineered barriers that fulfill for 1,000 years a delicate and dual function of moderating and reducing the brine. Thanks to all the recommendations of INERIS, Stocamine would have benefited from “a hydraulic short circuit”, thus the volume of brine marked by the 20th century waste would decrease from 7 million m3 to 7,000 m3 and its migration to the vital web Rhine would take 1,000 years instead of 300.

The partial withdrawal does not guarantee to avoid contamination of resources in drinkable water by mercury, arsenic, chromium, antimony, lead, asbestos and fluorides. These toxic agents will remobilize over the centuries and rearm by the fatal water logging of Stocamine otherwise called flooding galleries. The brine multi-polluted by its long transit through the underground landfill, will flow into the water of Alsace and the Rhine, the primary water resource for millions of people and agricultural irrigation. This is a major risk of international stature.

INERIS also under estimates the effects of earthquakes on the integrity of the galleries and the circulation of water in the salt gems rocks and minimize the risks of atmospheric pollution.

Robin des Bois has as much faith in the INERIS predictions as in those of an astrology barrack on the Internet or at a fair. The NGO is conscious of physical and health risks for those who deep underground are going to participate in the cleaning of Stocamine. The risks can be reduced by rigorous conditions of destocking which contrasts with the carelessness of the several years of storage.

In accordance to the law of July 13, 1992 and the authorization act, all waste should be withdrawn from this geological storage. The potential negative impacts of the abandonment of Stocamine and the majority of waste on public Health and the biosphere are not all that is at stake. So is trust in the French State’s word. The reversibility of radioactive waste in the geological storage of Cigeo is one of the major issues for the feasibility of the project. The renouncement of the state to recover the chemical waste of Stocamine strips the Ciego project of a major part of its credibility.





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