The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) has analysed the state-of-the-art science, technology and procedures needed across the EU for implementation of geological disposal for high-level nuclear waste. It concluded that the critical step in implementing this waste management solution is regulatory approval, coupled with public acceptance.
In its report entitled “Geological disposal of radioactive waste: moving towards implementation”, JRC calls for continuing scientific co-operation to ensure a harmonised level of understanding throughout the EU.
The report acknowledges that while there is world-wide scientific consensus that safe geological disposal of high-level nuclear waste is technically feasible, public acceptance has not been achieved in most member states.
Bruce McKirdy, acting Managing Director of NDA’s RWMD, welcomed the publication of the report and said: “We work very closely with those organisations throughout Europe who like us are responsible for implementing geological disposal. It has long been recognised that public support is critical and that is why Government here is leading the site selection process through a system of voluntarism and partnership as set out in the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely White Paper.”
The JRC report examines in broad terms the various elements of a deep geological repository system for high-level waste and/or spent fuel, if the latter is declared a waste. This includes the waste forms, the containers, buffers and backfills as well as the host rocks. The respective safety functions, such as retention and buffering, are examined with respect to their conceptual development and quantitative knowledge.
The report also noted that:
- scientific understanding of the processes relevant for geological disposal is developed well enough to proceed with step-wise implementation
- scientific and regulatory co-operation, e.g. through the EU framework programmes, ensures a Europe-wide harmonised level of scientific understanding and regulatory oversight
- mechanisms to demonstrate equivalency between member States’ regulations might be a more efficient way forward than harmonised or unified regulations;
- the awareness of the need to involve all stakeholders in the decision making processes towards implementation of geological disposal is now high throughout Europe
- there are still unresolved issues on how to involve stakeholders in practice
- supporting more advanced countries in their effort to move to implementation is likely to have synergetic effects in other countries by increasing stakeholders confidence
- the de facto roles of the EC can be seen as providing the policy framework and R&D funding, of the International Atomic Energy Association as providing regulatory guidance, while the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) compiles and analyses principles and technical and social aspects of implementation.
The full report is available on the European Commission Joint Research Centre.