1994-1996: ANDRA conducts further investigations to establish a geological underground laboratory

With the success of the mediation mission assigned to Christian Bataille, whose objective was to conduct preliminary consultations to propose to the government favourable sites for the implementation of underground labo­ratories, teams from ANDRA returned to fieldwork in 1994. They per­formed geological investigations in four Departments:

• Gard (clay),

• Vienna (granite),

• the Meuse (clay),

• the Haute-Marne (clay).

Through seismic campaigns and core drilling, the geological layers that could accommodate a laboratory were determined. This was done under very different conditions from those existing prior to the moratorium. First, a law now regulated the action of ANDRA. Second, around the sites, local elected officials supported the Agency. There was still some opposition, demonstrations, and some malicious acts, but the work of ANDRA was not hindered.

In 1996, projects for the Meuse and Haute-Marne Departments were combined in a single site located in the town of Bure. ANDRA then filed three applications for installation of underground laboratories. However, in 1997, political difficulties prevented any decision. In the new French govern­ment of Lionel Jospin, the underground laboratory project was no longer unanimously accepted.

1998: ANDRA now has permission to establish a laboratory in clay

ANDRA’s research on the feasibility of an underground facility did not stop. From 1996 to 1998 the Agency joined the ‘Mont Terri’ Swiss project in the Jura, where researchers were using the viewing gallery of a motorway tunnel to conduct experiments on a clay layer with qualities similar to those of the clay at Bure. ANDRA also continued to fund research in many uni­versity laboratories.

In August 1998, a large European anti-nuclear gathering took place at Bure. That day, the mayors of a dozen neighbouring municipalities installed signs ‘Yes to the lab’ to the fronts of their town halls. In December 1998, a political compromise was found and the government announced its decision:

• future storage must be reversible.

• the site of the Gard was discarded.

• the research on the granite site of the Vienne Department was consid­ered inconclusive, but ANDRA should nevertheless continue to study the rock.

Finally, the Meuse/Haute-Marne site was chosen to implement an under­ground laboratory: more than 10 years after its first research (1987), ANDRA had the permission to create a laboratory in clay.

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