The French nuclear group Orano has signed a contract worth more than 1 billion euros to return high-level nuclear waste processed in France to Germany by the end of 2024.
Orano announced on Thursday that a “package of deals” between electricity companies PreussenElektra, RWE, ENBW and Vattenfall had formalised an in-principle agreement made in June by the French and German governments.
For 44 years German electricity companies have sent spent nuclear fuel to Normandy for recycling.
Train convoys carrying the waste were regularly blocked by environmental activists, some of whom chained themselves to the tracks.
Under the agreement, which followed years of difficult negotiations, it is not medium-level German waste that will be returned, but high-level French waste from EDF power plants.
Orano said this meant it would take less volume and less time to send the same level of radioactive waste back to Germany.
"In terms of mass and radioactivity, this does not change anything," Orano said in a statement, describing the deal as a "fairly common practice of equivalence”.
A single train of 100 containers carrying the spent nuclear fuel is to be transported from Orano’s plant in La Hague, Normandy, to Germany within the next three years.
Under French law, nuclear waste that enters France for processing cannot remain in the country.
However Germany does not have a solution for the long-term management and storage of radioactive material.