History and context

Geography of a nuclearized territory

Notes about this map:
  • the final installations will take up much more space than that
  • the Gondrecourt depot is already built and other constructions are planned
  • facilities are not represented: the Areva archives at Houdelaincourt; the EDF archives at Andra .



In 1998, Haute-Marne and Meuse departments were selected for the construction of an “underground geological research laboratory” managed by Andra (Agence Nationale pour la Gestion des Déchets Radioactifs). Other departments had been approached but too much opposition prevented the project. Construction of the laboratory began in Bure in 2000. Petitions and demonstrations do not weaken(1). In 2006, the State validated the underground storage at Bure and charged Andra with the design and implementation of the Cigéo project for 2025. The project is already several years behind schedule. Today, Andra’s laboratory is a real small town in the Meuse/Haut-Marne countryside that has been guarded since the summer of 2017 by a squadron of cops permanently posted inside the laboratory. The laboratory contains a well with 2 km of test galleries at a depth of 500m. This small town is also composed of a technology center, a hotel-restaurant, a grocery store, a gas station of the eco-library, the archives of EDF.
Testimony of Jean-Pierre, farmer fighting against Cigéo (April 2017):
“It was still unclear: they didn’t say what they wanted to do…. So they had this brilliant idea of a laboratory: to say ‘we are looking but we are not storing’. From that moment on, the two departments, the general councils, and even the villages, everyone welcomed them with open arms, because there was the financial support with it.Then they acquired 100 ha, where the current lab is located.” (source in french)
1. See the movie Tous n’ont pas dit oui d’Alien Riès (2013)(english, italian and german subtitles available).


In 2004, anti-nuclear activists from France and Germany created the association Bure Zone Libre (BZL). The following year, together with the non-profit organization Sortir Du Nucléaire, they bought an old farm house to renovate in the heart of Bure. This will become the “House of resistance to nuclear waste”. The house is a place for counter-information on Cigéo and for organising the struggle.Today, the house is lived all year round and is open to all.
To show that the territory is far from empty, contrary to what Andra would have us believe, and to put obstacles in its way, about ten other collectives places, some private, others more collective, are bought or rented all around Bure, like the Affranchie (a place off the grid without public water or electricity. A legal procedure by Andra is currently underway via the SAFER to try to recover the building, in Mandres-en-Barrois.


Bois Lejuc has an important place in the Cigéo project: after clearing, it is to be used to house the shafts that will “ventilate” the underground galleries filled with radioactive waste. In July 2015, the municipal council of Mandres-en-Barrois voted in favour of the exchange of the Bois Lejuc communal forest with the Bois de la Caisse, owned by Andra. This was despite local protest. Following a complaint of conflict of interest and an undeclared secret ballot, this vote was repeated in May 2017.
In the summer of 2016, Andra was about to start clearing the Bois Lejuc illegally, as it had no prior permit. The “endless picnic” of 19 June 2016 marks the beginning of the first occupation. Andra’s fences were knocked down on this occasion. After 3 weeks of occupation, the forest was evicted at 6am on 7 July 2016. To prevent access to the Bois Lejuc, Andra erected a concrete enclosure wall, still without a building permit. It will be condemned for these illegal works. On 15 August 2016, a demonstration started and, realising that the forest was empty of cops, decided to tear down the wall. In the following weeks, the forest is squat again. To give this occupation a firmer footing, a legal procedure is underway to challenge Andra’s legal ownership of Bois Lejuc. On 22 February 2018 at 6am, the Bois Lejuc was evicted again. On the same day the house of the Resistance is attacked by the cops. In July 2019, a 3-day reoccupation was quickly evicted. Since then, access to the wood is forbidden and monitored by cameras and cops patrols.


The old station of Luméville (known as La Gare) is a collective site bought in 2004 by opponents to Cigéo. This site is located on the route of the railway line that Andra plans to renovate in order to transport the nuclear waste to the underground galleries. There are many municipalities that would be directly affected by the passage of rail and road convoys in the vicinity of Cigéo: Nançois-sur-Ornain, Velaines, Ligny-en-Barrois, Givrauval, Longeaux, Menaucourt, Nantois, Naix-aux-Forges, Saint-Amand-sur-Ornain, Tréveray, Laneuville, Saint-Joire, Demange-aux-Eaux, Baudignecourt, Houdelaincourt, Abainville, Gondrecourt-le-Château, Horville-en-Ornois, Luméville-en-Ornois, Chassey-Beaupré, Cirfontaines-en-Ornois, Guillaumé, Saudron.
If the Declaration of Public Utility (DUP) is validated, Andra will be able to move from bribery and negotiation to get the land it wants to a more brutal method. La Gare, as well as other properties, will then be threatened with expropriation first to relieve the roads and allow the transport of machines and materials for the Cigéo works, and finally, to allow two CASTOR trains (1) to pass through every week for 100 years…
On this place of struggle, many events have been organised: the anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist VMC camp in 2015, many music festivals, anti-prison meetings (the last one in March 2020), queer events, participative workcamps, screenings… On La Gare there is also a permanent exhibition Trainstopping on the practices of blocking and sabotaging rail transport in the context of the anti-nuclear movement.
1. Cask for storage and transport of radioactive material

FRONCLES (42 km to the labo)

In Froncles, the company POMA is already working for CIGEO. In order to transport the radioactive waste packages from the surface to the underground storage facility 500 meters below ground, ANDRA plans to dig a 12 km long cable car. In 2014, the Isère-based group POMA won the contract and signed a 68 million euro contract with Andra to build a funicular. In 2019, POMA moved to Froncles in Haute-Marne and began construction of a full-scale model of the funicular. Testing has already begun, following the inauguration of the project in February 2021. As a result,a call to actions againt POMA is launched. This call is in line with the call to actions against Cigeo’s Monsters, the subcontracting companies of the Cigéo project.

JOINVILLE (22 km to the labo)

The Cigéo project is made up of a multitude of side projects to the laboratory, all of which are opposed. Recently, the project for a low-level radioactive waste reprocessing plant in Gudmont-Villiers by Derichebourg was cancelled in the face of opposition from its residents. For almost 4 years, Unitech, a project for a nuclear clothes laundry in Joinville triggered major demonstrations. On the other hand, EDF was able to discreetly install a platform for storing nuclear power plant parts in Velaines. Orano and EDF have also set up archive centres in Bure and Houdelaincourt. The CEA also has a new building in Bure-Saudron, since the strong opposition against Syndièse, a biofuel plant project
In order to better sell the Cigéo project and to ensure that the villagers support it, the authorities and the nuclear industry must demonstrate that they are not harming the region but that they are working to “energise” it, to enrich it financially and to create jobs. With this in mind, training courses have been opened in technological diplomas for the nuclear industry, the facets of which are as varied as the projects that dot the Meuse and Haute-Marne regions. Thus, the promoters of Cigéo are making promises to local entrepreneurs and elected representatives of a whole nuclear industry cluster destined to be established in Meuse and Haute-Marne.


In 2000, two “public interest groups” (GIP) were created: one for the Meuse and one for the Haute-Marne. The stated aim was to develop cooperation between public authorities and/or private partners to pursue objectives of common interest. Initially set at 18 million euros per year, the GIPs will be rise to 30 million euros per year in 2019 for each department. Supported by the producers of nuclear waste (EDF, CEA and Areva-Orano), the GIPs are intended to boost local industry. These resources are in fact partially directed «towards the financing of actions and equipment designed to promote the implementation of the [Cigéo] project in the local areas», according to the 2016 activity report of EDF and the Andra’s laboratory. Funding communities, companies and the population to promote social acceptance of nuclear power and Cigéo: never before seen in a pre-project context!

In concrete terms, these GIPs have, for example, benefited the creation in 2007 of the Areva general archive company in Houdelaincourt (Meuse). Aid was also paid for the EDF platform for storing spare parts for the 19 power plants in Velaines (Meuse), or for the power plant tool maintenance base in Saint-Dizier (Haute-Marne). In this EDF unit, components used in the power plants are reconditioned. This is a promising market at a time when the “major overhaul” is pushing back the age limit for power plants. We do not all have the same definition of what is or is not in the common interest…


Through the Safer (Institution responsible for land and rural settlement), Andra has progressively seized more than 3000 ha of land, including 1000 ha of agricultural land, harassing many farmers, increasing the price of land and complicating agricultural installations.
The agro-industrial desert of this territory facilitates the development of the nuclear waste dump. The local farmers are alone, dependent on long chains, over-indebted. They have lost their autonomy and protest is becoming increasingly difficult. To facilitate negotiations, Andra favours restructuring and expansion. Since its establishment, Andra has increased the price per hectare by €5000 (information from April 2017)! In the short term, this is a godsend for farmers who can sell at a very good price and obtain in exchange precarious leases on other land to continue their activity. In 2016, more than 300 hectares were taken out of agricultural use and thus deprived of their food value.
“The notaries are obliged to inform Safer, and from the moment it is on Safer’s desk, Andra is systematically aware of the files and gets hold of them to acquire everything that moves. Including forests, not necessarily what they need. […] There has been no expropriation, we are still on amicable terms, but with pressure and intimidation.” Interview with Jean-Pierre, farmer fighting against Cigéo (avril 2017)
In spite of this, some farmers, such as Jean-Pierre, are taking action against Cigéo. The trial of the latter (courant 2017), for complicity in the first occupation of the Bois Lejuc, was above all a strategy of intimidation against the villagers, and in particular the farmers, who might want to block Cigéo.

Sources :

Chronology of the struggles

1) 1987-2000 : Where will the storage site be that nobody wants ?

In 1987, four sites for the burial of radioactive waste were arbitrarily chosen by the government: in Ain, Aisne, Maine-et-Loire and Deux-Sèvres. In the following years, the constitution of a national coordination against the burial and confrontations with the cops caused the four sites to fail. Following these difficulties, a law was passed in 1991 on the initiative of Christian Bataille (labor party deputy), which set the framework for financial compensation, which today covers the Meuse and Haute-Marne departments (GIP), and introduced the idea of an “underground laboratory” (this being more acceptable than a underground landfill, although the ultimate aim is to make it a underground landfill). At this stage, 4 projects have been selected: in Meuse, Haute-Marne, Vienne and in the Gard. Moreover, at that time, Bure was not among the new sites selected:. It is therefore possible to think that this place was chosen after the fact not for geological reasons but for strategic reasons: few people, therefore little resistance this time… Some years later, In 1998, Haute-Marne and Meuse were selected for the construction of an “underground geological research laboratory” managed by Andra. The construction of the laboratory in Bure began in 1999-2000.

2) 2000-2014 : Early years at Bure

In 2000-2001, 2,000 people gathered in Bure in a camp opposite the laboratory site. The Maison de Résistance in Bure was collectively purchased by opponents in 2004. Petitions and demonstrations continued unabated in those years[Note : as documented in the film Tous n’ont pas dit oui from Alien Riès (2013)]. In November 2004, Sébastien, a 22-year-old anti-nuclear activist, died in Avricourt, Lorraine, when he was run over by the locomotive of a nuclear waste convoy going to Germany (source (in french)). However, by the law of 28 June 2006, the State validated the underground storage at Bure and entrusted Andra with the design and implementation of the Cigéo project for 2025 (the project is already several years behind schedule). Finally, as the participation of opponents in the 2005 Public Debate was thus scorned and snidely ignored by Andra, the new 2013 consultation will be boycotted by Cigéo opponents

3) 2014-2015 : Bure is not just a Meuse and Haute-Marne problem!

In August 2013, the Petit festival contre la grande poubelle nucléaire (Little festival against the big nuclear waste bin) as well as a Grand Est Assembly were formed. The objective of the latter is to strengthen the local mobilization but also to widen it in France and in neighbouring countries because Bure is not a Meuse or Haute-Marne problem: it concerns us all in the four corners of the country, in Europe and beyond! A call for decentralised actions is launched in 2014: “Bure 365: 1 year of actions against Cigéo, nuclear power and its world”.
The struggle also travels out of Bure to do an infotour everywhere, notably in Montabot and Notre-Dame-des-Landes. After several festivals next to Bure, the antinuks invited themselves to Nancy on 5 and 6 September 2014 to say Nukoff! to Cigéo in the framework of a participatory and self-managed gathering. In July 2015, the municipal council of Mandres-en-Barrois voted in favour of the exchange of the communal forest (Bois Lejuc) with the Bois de la Caisse, owned by Andra, despite a previous consultation of the inhabitants with a majority negative result. A third of the villagers signed a petition against this deliberation, an appeal was lodged (following a complaint for conflict of interest and undeclared secret ballot, the exchange of Bois Lejuc was voted in favour again in May 2017). This decision allows the project to move from the laboratory stage to the acquisition of favourable land, even though Cigéo is not yet declared by the DAC (application for authorisation to create). This triggers an intensification of the struggle on the ground. The following month, an international anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist camp (VMC) gathered 1,500 people at La Gare of Luméville.

Sources :

4) 2016-2017 : occupation of the Bois Lejus and agricultural resistance

In the summer of 2016, Andra is about to undertake clearing work in the Bois Lejuc and this without a prior permit. The “endless picnic” of 19 June 2016 marks the beginning of the first occupation. On this occasion, Andra’s fences were knocked down. After 3 weeks of occupation, the forest is evicted on 7 July 2016 at 6am. To prevent access to Bois Lejuc, Andra erects a concrete enclosure wall, still without authorizations. After Andra was condemned for these illegal works, a demonstration started on 15 August 2016 with the aim of tearing down this wall. In the weeks that followed, the forest was occupied again until February 2018.
Various agricultural initiatives were undertaken during those years, in particular via the Terres de Bure collective: such as potato seedlings planted in fields left fallow by Andra in 2015; the hectare of cereals planted under the laboratory’s windows in November 2015; or the 500 m2 of potatoes planted in April 2016 on land belonging to Andra; and so many other projects to this day..

5) 2017-2019 : repression intensifies on opponents

While individual comrades were indeed under surveillance, put on file, fined, banned, etc., there was no massive police operation at the scale of the movement. In June 2017, the week of action was marked by a lightning ransacking of Andra’s hotel-restaurant and provided an opportunity to disguise the nuclear resistance as a “criminal association” intent on committing “arson”, if not murder. The militarisation of the territory intensified in the weeks that followed. On 4 July, a national investigation unit was set up to investigate criminal acts committed by opponents of the Cigéo project: the
Bure Unit.
A new stage in terms of repression was then reached during the demonstration of 15 August 2017. The message was clear: immediate and uncompromising repression. This day of mobilisation ended with many people injured, one of whom nearly lost his foot in the explosion of a GLI-F4 grenade. Then came 20 September 2017 and its five simultaneous raids. From that time on, many people all over Europe expressed their solidarity with the opponents in Bure and created support committees. On 22 February 2018 at 6am, one month after the announcement of the abandonment of the Notre-Dame des Landes airport and following the famous speech “There will be no more ZADs in France”, nearly 500 cops proceeded with the eviction of the inhabitants of Bois Lejuc and the destruction of all the huts.
They also brutally broke into the Maison de Résistance, arresting all the occupants one by one. As a result of these police operations, three people were detained and sentenced to several months in prison. Between February and June 2018, road and pedestrian checks in the area became incessant, often leading to identity checks, police custody, and sometimes trials. On 20 June, shortly after the demonstration of 16 June 2018 in Bar-le-Duc, Bure woke up with nearly 200 cops deployed, the arrest of 8 people, as well as the search of 11 places where people lived and organised the struggle. These arrests led to the first interrogations of the defendants for “criminal conspiracy”, whose trial took place in Bar-le-Duc on 1, 2 and 3 June 2021 (the verdict will be delivered on 21 September). The repressive climate on the ground with the permanent presence of the cops, the controls and the trials, as well as the “criminal conspiracy” were intended to kill the fight against Cigéo. In spite of this, many people continued to live in the area and the organisation of local events was maintained. Various sabotages, in particular of the drilling for Cigéo, followed one another and Bois Lejuc was reoccupied a third time for a few days (July 2019).


6) 2019-nowadays

After the difficulties experienced (repression, trauma,…) in 2018-2019 and while controls and repression were dwindling (still despite regular patrols of gendarmes in the various villages in the vicinity – but without systematic control), new events and demonstrations in and around Bure continued to swarm energies and links. For 2019, these include the second Bure’lesques festival (which will again take place near Bure on 6, 7 and 8 August 2021), the Vent de Bure discussions and demonstration in Nancy, the Bombes Atomiques , the week of construction at the Maison de Résistance; for 2020, the anti-nuclear and feminist week and the Bombes Atomques demonstration, the anti-prison week at La Gare, the anti-nuclear week in the autumn and the “We’re all criminals” Despite all the constraints of the situation, the various confinements have also strengthened the knowledge and bonds between opponents, spending time at the Maison de Resistance and other collective spaces. And soon, the Rayonnantes!


7) Les enjeux d’aujourd’hui : 2021 et le risque de l’accélération des travaux

While Andra has not yet obtained its Declaration for Public Utility (DUP) or the Application for Authorisation to Create (DAC), the ApplicationCigéo project is making small steps forward and preparing the ground through a number of works: such as the cleaning and clearing of the land that will host the future railway; the acquisition of land through the Safer to convert the site into a freight terminal for Cigéo; or finally the underground measurements through the work of surveyors or through green drilling boBande dessinéexes (which have by the way, as mentioned earlier, been the object of several sabotages in recent years. ..)
Again, in 2020,the Declaration of Public Utility (DUP) of the Cigéo project initiates an upcoming acceleration of the work. However, this procedure does not authorise the construction of the storage centre itself: this will be the subject of the application for authorisation to creation (DAC) of the nuclear facility, which should be submitted by 2022 (a date to be taken with a grain of salt, as this deadline is regularly postponed by Andra, which has great difficulty in demonstrating the safety of its project). Thanks to the DUP, Andra will be able to start the first works on Cigéo, known as “pre-planned developments”, i.e. the exproriation of land and housing coveted by Andra; the deforestation, exposure and artificialisation of agricultural and forest land such as Bois Lejuc; the construction of an electricity transformer; the restoration of dozens of kilometres of railway tracks to transport radioactive waste; the diversion of departmental roads; the consumption of a very large quantity of water for the work, requiring the pumping of water from springs 20 km away; the incessant traffic of numerous heavy goods vehicles and construction equipment, etc.
Far from fatalism and resignation, let us not forget that Cigéo is not yet launched. It has already suffered many delays and the files presented to us are still flawed. Let us not forget that the history of this project is based on strong opposition from the outset and that Andra has been chased out of many departments (Ain, Aisne, Maine-et-Loire, Deux-Sèvres…). Let us not forget the deaths of two Andra workers in 2002 and 2016 following the digging of galleries at the Bure/Saudron laboratory. The causes of the 2016 deaths have still not been clarified. Let us not forget the opinion of the Environmental Authority in January 2021, which is highly critical of the waste storage project.
Who will be the next to be sacrificed?
The Cigéo project is destructive and deadly. Whether the DUP is validated or not, we continue to be determined to oppose this project. It is important to fight against this DUP, as well as against the expropriations and deforestations that will follow.

Sources of articles :


Websites :

Fanzines :

Movies :

Radio :

Comic and books

  • The comik book “100 000 ans”, Ed. Marabulle, 2020, (in french)
  • “Le nucléaire c’est fini”, La parisienne libérée, 2019, (in french)