Voltaire was one of the wealthy one-percenters back in his day, but he was also one of the key Englightenment figures who helped bring an end to European dynasties and the hereditary privilege of the nobility. He spent some time in the Bastille as a political prisoner, went into exile numerous times, and never chickened out when he saw an injustice to lend his famous voice to.
The Château de Cirey is in the Haute-Marne region, which is also the place where the French nuclear establishment hopes to bury the nation’s high level nuclear waste near the town of Bure. The historical coincidence makes me wonder what Voltaire would say today if he could witness the modern outrage of the French nuclear legacy.
While being labelled as “reversible,” this way of proceeding is no more than a way of slowly establishing the project while the construction of infrastructure continues apace. There is no guarantee that the wastes disposed of “experimentally” could ever be brought back to the surface. The residents near the site in Bure have already seen the “laboratory” transformed into an industrial center for geologic disposal. Now they will face another rude shock when they realize that the pilot project has turned CIGEO into a fait accompli.
It is certain that ANDRA is hoping to divert attention from the serious criticisms that were raised during the period of public debate. The problems extend over every aspect of CIGEO: the costs, the exact nature of the inventory of wastes, concerns of neighboring countries (Luxembourg and Germany), risks of fires and hydrogen explosions, ethical issues. No pilot project can make these issues disappear. In fact, recent problems at a similar site in New Mexico have confirmed that burial is an option that should be abandoned.