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South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#746, 747, 748
Waste special

South Africa

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The 2008 National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute Act provides for the establishment of a National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute which will manage radioactive waste disposal in South Africa. The responsibility for nuclear waste disposal has been discharged by the Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) until now.  Necsa has been operating the national repository for low- and intermediate-level wastes at Vaalputs in the Northern Cape province. This was commissioned in 1986 for wastes from Koeberg and is financed by fees paid by Eskom. Some low- and intermediate-level waste from hospitals, industry and Necsa itself is disposed of at Necsa's Pelindaba site.(*01)

Koeberg spent fuel is currently stored in pools as well as in casks. The site has enough storage capacity for the spent fuel that will be generated during the current operational lifetime of Koeberg.

Pending the outcome of current investigations into possible reprocessing of spent fuel, it is not classified as radioactive waste. Rather than been in its final form for disposal used fuel is. Interim storage takes place on site, awaiting investigations into the best long term option for the management of spent fuel.(*02) If chosen as a preferred option in South Africa, geological disposal of radioactive waste shall take place with an option for retrieving the waste.(*03)

Plans by Eskom to seek contracts for reprocessing surfaced in August 2009. The stae owned utility and operator of Koeberg said the resulting MOX-fuel could be sold to other countries rather than used at home. It turned out to be a plan to try to finance new build.(*04) Not surprisingly it was never heard of again.

According to Nesca CEO Rob Adams South Africa would need a fully operational high-level waste management site by 2070 to deal with spent fuel. The negotiations with the National Nuclear Regulator to identify a high-level waste disposal site would likely start before 2015. Three possible disposal sites would have to be identified, and three individual environmental impact assessment studies would have to be conducted. Necsa would then argue the case of the most suitable site. Vaalputs will most likely be one of them.(*05)


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Low- and intermediate level wastes is stored at ENRESA's storage facility at El Cabril, Cordoba. Spent fuel is stored at the reactor sites awaiting a centralized interim storage and geological disposal A final geological disposal facility is not expected before 2050, at the earliest. No reprocessing of spent fuel takes place, but in the past spent fuel of Vandellos-1 reactor has been reprocessed.

Low-level Waste
In the 1950s, the El Cabril uranium mine was shut down and started to be used for storing low and intermediate level waste. In 1986 ENRESA took responsibility for El Cabril and moved the waste from the mines to new built buildings on the same site.(*01) It is planned to receive waste until 2015.(02) The state-owned radioactive Waste management organization ENRESA, created in 1984, is responsible for managing radioactive waste and decommissioning of nuclear plants.(*03)

High-level waste and spent fuel
ENRESA is since 1987 developing a disposal program aimed at providing a final solution for the spent fuel and high level waste. The program comprised of three areas: identification of suitable sites, conceptual design and performance assessment of a geological repository and research and development.(*04) At that time a repository was expected to be realized by 2020. By end-1990, some 25,000 km2 of possible regions were found. Finally, some 30 areas were identified for further research.(*05)

Although ENRESA had identified favorable areas for further underground research, work was halted in 1996 due to public opposition; or in the words of ENRESA: "the reaction of the public advised to discontinue any field work in 1996."(*06) In 1995, it had become known among environmental groups that ENRESA had plans for the construction of underground disposal laboraties and a list of possible locations was released. The groups accused ENRESA of not having informed the public and of having inspected possible sites. Large demonstrations were organized which culminated in a demonstration of 20,000 people in 1998 at Torrecampo.(*07)  At the end of 1996, the Senate Commission for Industry established an inquiry commission to develop a new waste policy. It had to study the difficulties in finding a site for waste disposal and should include socio-political and public acceptance aspects. The  commission’s work was expected to result in guidelines for the government to develop a legal framework for siting. The commission received contributions from groups and institutions and visited other countries for comparison.(*08)

In 1999 the 5th Radioactive Waste Plan was adopted with a new policy: construction of a centralized interim HLW storage by 2010 for reprocessing waste as well as spent fuel; and no decisions about final disposal before the year 2010.(*09)

In mid 2006 Parliament approved ENRESA's plans to develop an interim centralized high-level  waste and spent fuel storage facility by 2010, and the Nuclear Safety Council CSN approved its design, which was similar to the Habog facility near the Borssele power plant in the Netherlands. In December 2009 the government called for municipalities to volunteer to host this €700 million Almacen Temporal Centralizado (ATC) facility. The government offered to pay up to €7.8 million annually once the facility is operational. It is designed to hold for 100 years 6700 metric tons of used fuel and 2600 m3 of medium-level wastes, plus 12 m3 of high-level waste from reprocessing the Vandellos-1 fuel. The facility is to be built in three stages, each taking five years.  Fourteen towns volunteered, attracted by the prospect of a €700 million investment over 20 years and the annual direct payments, plus many jobs, but only eight were formally accepted.(*10)

In September 2011 the Ministry for Industry announced its selection and rankings: Zarra (Valencia) 736 points; Asco (Tarragona) 732 points; Yebra (Guadalajara) 714 points; Villar de Canas (Cuenca) 692 points. In December 2011 the Ministry announced that Villar de Canas had been selected, though only a 60-year storage period was mentioned. Pending construction, low- and medium-level wastes continues to be sent to ENRESA's storage facility at El Cabril, Cordoba, which has operated since 1961. Used fuel remains at individual power plants.(*11)

For Jose Maria Saiz, the mayor of Villar de Canas, the financial compensation and the promise of 300 jobs were compelling arguments to get the storage to his place. That doesn’t alter the fact that environmental groups and trade unions are against the storage.(*12)  And in March 2012 it turned out that promised regional jobs were not materializing and little is left of the initial optimism.(*13)

The General Plan on Radioactive Waste suggests that the operation of a deep repository in Spain would probably start in 2050. Therefore, the period between 2025 and 2040 would be focused on decision-making process and site characterisations, whereas from 2040 to 2050 construction would take place. A programme of activities between 2006 and 2025 to meet the objective of having a repository by 2050 is lacking (Fundación para Estudios sobre la Energía, 2007).

The high level of priority given to the interim storage facility has delayed the interest and the research efforts in deep geological disposal. Furthermore, the construction of the centralised storage facility allows decisions on final management to be postponed.(*14)


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Since the mid-1970s spent nuclear fuel is to be disposed of in a geologic repository. Early plans for reprocessing the spent fuel were abandoned already in the early 1980’s. In the 1970's Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB (Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company), SKB, was established to manage the waste (*01 Sweden once dumped low-level waste in the Atlantic Ocean (in 1969) and twice (1959 and 1961) in the Baltic Sea.(*02)

The country wants to dispose its nuclear waste, packed in copper to ensure long-term safety, in granite from 2023/25 on. But problems with copper and geological stability have been published widely. Awaiting final disposal spent fuel is stored in an interim facility in Oskarshamn, called Clab. Low and intermediate-level waste is currently stored in a final repository 50 meters deep in the crystalline basement near the nuclear power plant in Forsmark.(*03)

Long-lasting search
In Sweden, the Parliament decided to a Nuclear Power Act in 1977, which asked for an “absolutely safe solution” for final disposal of nuclear waste and makes the nuclear industry responsible for the management of the waste. The Swedish government started a procedure, called scientific mediation, to clarify the scientific differences. This was followed by discussions with the public, aimed at participation in the decision-making.(*04)

Research to find a final disposal site has taken place for since 1977. Eleven sites were examined, with extensive work undertaken at 7. Test-drillings was planned in 5, but only two of these allowed SKB to carry out even an initial feasibility study: Storuman and Malaa. Several possible locations for the final disposal have been dropped out after referendums, such as Storuman, Malaa(*05) and Gaellivare.(*06) It was obvious by then that the best chance for a repository would be in a municipality that has a nuclear power plant: Forsmark and Oskarshamn, or at the Studsvik research reactor.(*07) The idea is that in these locations such an initiative will most likely gain sufficient support, and SKB limited themselves to the choice of  a site with nuclear power activities. (*Sw08) Municipalities can present themselves voluntarily as a host location, but can also withdraw in a later stage. Although there is a law enabling the government under very specific conditions to overrule such a veto, but this provisions seems very hard to use for any government: this will not happen in practice.(*09)

In 1998, SKB director Peter Nygaards stated that the Swedish government should be prepared to offer financial incentives to a community willing to host the repository. He compared this with the money the government pays to local communities to take in refugees. Similarly, any disposal of nuclear waste must also be reimbursed. Nygaards also said he don’t want to fix the moment of permanently sealing a repository. If the repository is full one should consider if closing is not a better option so that "future generations can open it if they need to?" Nygaards said: "It is not wise to make a decision today for 100,000 years from now".(*10)
 Besides the locations with nuclear power plants, only Tierp volunteered to be a host community for the repository. (*11)

 In November 2001 the government approved research in Tierp, Forsmark and Oskarshamn,(*12) but in April 2002, the city council of Tierp decided to withdraw.(*13)  In June 2009 SKB selected Forsmark.(*14) The repository is proposed to be sited adjacent to the Forsmark nuclear power plant on the Baltic Sea coast. On 16 March 2011, SKB applied for a permit.(*15) It plans to begin site works in 2013, with full construction starting in 2015, and operation after 2020.(*16)

Criticism on safety
The KBS method was developed in the 1970s. The basis is a geologic repository at about 500 meter depth in granite bed-rock and the long-term safety is to be guaranteed by artificial barriers – copper canisters surrounded by a bentonite clay buffer.(*17)

There is severe criticism on the disposal method. The nuclear waste is disposed of at 500 meters depth in granite. According to SKB, this is a stable geological formation. But paleo-geophysicist Nils-Axel Mörner states that the stability is not true. Since the end of the last Ice Age the ground went upwards with a rate of one millimeter per day, there were 58 serious earthquakes and 16 tsunamis. As a consequence of these and other factors Mörner finds the repository unstable and not safe.(*18)
In November 2009 another problem arose: the use of copper. The nuclear waste is encased in a copper layer of five centimeters, which has to remain intact for 100,000 years.

Copper corrodes in environments where oxygen is present. The process is easy to observe on copper roof materials that turn green from oxidation. When the industry’s KBS-method was developed in the 1970’s the understanding was that copper does not corrode at all in an anoxic (oxygen-free) environment in the bedrock. During the 1980's a researcher from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Gunnar Hultquist, presented new findings that showed that copper could corrode in environments without oxygen, as long as there is water present. The new findings were denied by SKB and ignored by the authorities. During the autumn of 2007 Gunnar Hultquist and a colleague Peter Szakálos presented the findings again, this time with more experimental results.(*19) This is noticed by investigation of copper artifacts from the Swedish warship Vasa, which sunk in 1628: the copper had become much thinner than expected.(*20) Copper corrosion has caused a discussion about the KBS method in Sweden as the findings threaten basic assumptions underlying the long-term safety of the KBS method.

A geologic repository in Swedish bedrock at a depth of 500 m has groundwater flowing through the repository, says Dr. Johan Swahn, Director of the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review (MKG) at a hearing on the management of nuclear waste at the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy.(*21) A repository using the KBS method therefore has to rely on manmade barriers (clay and copper) to isolate the nuclear waste from the environment. The chemical and biological environment will in the long term threaten the artificial barriers of copper and clay in ways that are difficult to foresee. The relatively dry rock (for the KBS method) chosen by SKB in Forsmark puts stress on the clay barrier and opens up for new questions on copper corrosion processes. In Sweden there will be one or more Ice Ages during the next 100,000 years and glaciation will lead to variations in the chemical and biological environment that will affect the man-made barriers.

The safety case for Swedish KBS method is severely questioned and licensing is uncertain. The problems for the KBS method has opened up for questioning whether disposal methods relying on artificial engineered barriers should be implemented at all. The Swedish and Finnish repository programs for spent nuclear are entirely interdependent. If the Swedish program fails, so does automatically the Finnish.(*22)

In short, also in Sweden, nuclear waste disposal is not a fait accompli.

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has recommended a tripling of the fee paid by the country's nuclear power industry towards paying for management of the country's nuclear waste. Basing its assessment on information gathered from the relevant organizations - including cost estimates from SKB - SSM has recommended to the government that the fee should be set at 3 öre per kWh of nuclear electricity produced. The current level is 1 öre per kWh. (1 öre is worth approximately US$0.002)  According to SSM, much of the increase is down to new estimates from SKB indicating that the remaining costs of the country's planned final repository for used nuclear fuel have grown by about SEK 18 billion (US$2.7 billion) from previous estimates made in 2008. SSM also says it believes that SKB has underestimated future costs, and it has adjusted the proposed fee increase to reflect this.(*23)


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In 1969, the first Swiss nuclear power plant, Beznau 1, entered service. As of 1 March 2012 this plant is the oldest nuclear plant in the world.(*01) A geological final repository for high level waste will not be available before 2040, at the earliest: 70 years after the first reactor began operation. Switzerland dumped low- and intermediate level radioactive waste in sea 12 times from 1969-1982.(*i02) It transported the waste by train to the Netherlands, from where it was dumped in the Atlantic Ocean together with the Dutch radioactive waste.(*i03) Spent fuel is temporary stored at the Zwilag central storage facility.

In December 1972, the Nationale Genossenschaft fuer die Lagerung radioaktiver Abfaelle (Swiss organization responsible for the storage of nuclear waste) was created: Nagra:(*04) The operators of the nuclear power plants are 95% owned by Nagra, the government has a share of 5%.(*05) Nagra immediately began investigating the storage of low, intermediate and high-level radioactive waste. This resulted in the project "Gewähr" of 1985. In June 1988 the government decided to take the first steps for low and intermediate radioactive waste, but for high-level waste further research was needed. This was because siting feasibility, i.e. the demonstration that a suitable rock body of sufficient extent could be found at an actual site in Switzerland, had not been demonstrated.(*06)

Low and medium radioactive waste: Wellenberg drops out
In 1993, from a 1978 list of originally 100 sites, Nagra chose Wellenberg (in the canton of Nidwalden). Nagra found Wellenberg suitable for safety reasons, but also because there would be
sufficient storage available.(*07) In the Wellenberg-debate critics of the repository project articulated new concepts: the disposal should be retrievable and verifiable. The Nagra, however, did not agree with that and the debate culminated in a June 1995 referendum. A majority of the Nidwalden population voted against the storage. Given the distribution of powers in Switzerland, storage at Wellenberg was off.(*08) The Nagra then examined how the people of Nidwalden would have voted if the requirement of retrievability and monitoring would have been granted. It turned out that 60.8 percent would have voted 'yes'.(*09)

But Nagra wanted to hold on to Wellenberg and the government agreed to this. In 1998 the Department of Energy repeated that Wellenberg is suitable for retrievable and verifiable disposal of low and intermediate level waste.(*10) So another referendum was organized and on 22 September 2002, a majority (57.5%, turnout was 71%) of the population voted again against the disposal at WellenbergThe government reacted by saying that with this result disposal plans were canceled. This was a hard blow to the nuclear industry, which has spent 80 million francs (€55 million) for research and to propitiate the population.(*11)  But it turned out that Wellenberg was not off the table for ever.

Spent fuel policy
From July 2006 on , there is a 10-year moratorium on the export of spent fuel for reprocessing. Before the moratorium, utilities were free to choose between reprocessing and direct disposal of the spent fuel. The reprocessing took place abroad (France and UK). Dry storage buildings at the Beznau nuclear power plant and at the Zwilag central storage facility have been built for the interim storage of spent fuel and of radioactive waste returned from reprocessing abroad. In addition, a building for the wet storage of spent fuel at the Gösgen nuclear power plant was commissioned in 2008.(*12)

2008: new plan for high-level radioactive waste
On 6 November 2008, the Nagra came with a new waste disposal roadmap: 'Zeit zum handeln'.(*13) Surprisingly, Wellenberg was candidate again for storage of low and intermediate level. In February 2011, for the third time, the population Nidwalden voted against (74.5%) the storage.(*14) But unlike earlier, the district no longer has a right to veto: the government has abolished that in 2002.(*15) Therefore, Wellenberg remains on the list.

In the new roadmap, as a first step, there three regions were chosen: Zürcher Weinland, Nörlich Lägeren and Bözberg. These are three regions in northern Switzerland, where a certain kind of clay (opalinus clay) is found. From 2011 on, regional conferences (attended by 100-200 people) should be held several times per year.(*16) The costs, for each region 1.5 million francs (€1 million) is made available, of which 80% is paid by the Nagra.(*17) Somewhere between 2014 - 2016 two locations in each region should be selected and before 2020 a referendum can take place. After that one site will be chosen for the geological repository. After the repository is constructed and the procedures are completed, the storage can start in 2030 for low- and intermediate-level waste and for high-level waste in 2040 at the earliest. (*18)

The plans raised much protest, as extensively described in the May 2010 issue of Energie und Umwelt (Energy and Environment) of the Swiss Energy Foundation (SES).(*19) In all regions, groups work together to prevent that the nuclear waste goes to the site with the least resistance. Although the government announced it wants to give action groups financial support to make their own studies, this was not settled in May 2010. And while the Nagra asserts that a repository has regional benefits, a study of the canton of Schaffhausen shows the contrary: great regional economic damage is expected. Therefore, SES calls the participation a form of sham democracy.

The government, however, continued the plans and on 1 December, 2011, decided that those sites may remain appropriate on 1 December 2011.(*20) The next four years, further investigation will take place at all sites, and interested parties can participate in regional conferences. After those four years, so in 2016, one site is selected and an application process for a license will start. In 2040, Nagra expects, the actual disposal can start. The Swiss Energy Foundation (SES) together with local groups are protesting the continuation of the process. According to these groups there are 12 unresolved questions about safe disposal of nuclear waste.(*21) These 12 questions should first be resolved before the people can be involved in the disposal. Therefore, these groups are in favor of the suspension of the government's plans.(*22) On March 6, the government, however, sees no reason to stop the procedure and announced that a repository has positive outcomes on the regional economy.(*23)


South Africa
*01- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in South Africa, December 2011
*02- Nesca: South African National Report for the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, First National Report, October 2008, p.14
*03- Nesca, p.90
*04- Idaho Samizdat: SouthAfrica to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, 28 August 2008
*05- Engineering News: High-level nuclear waste may be disposed of at Vaalputs, 25 March 2009

*01- COWAM: Nuclear Waste Management in Spain : El Cabril and on site storage, COWAM European Concerted Action,  February 2005
*02- Damveld/Van den Berg: Discussion on nuclear waste: A Survey on Public Participation, Decision-making and Discussions in Eight Countries; Spain, January 2000, p.65
*03: ENRESA: Who we are, company website, April 2012
*04- J.L. Santiago, J. Alonso, et al: Geological disposal strategy for high level waste in Spain, in: Distec Proceedings, Conference on Disposal Technology, Hamburg, September 1998, p. 206-211
*05- P. Richardson: The Virtual Repository of Radwaste Information: Spain, July 1997 (currently pay site).
*06- J.L. Santiago, J. Alonso, et al.
*07: WISE News Communique: Spain: protests against possible radwaste storage site, Nr. 489, 3 April 1998
*08- J.L. Santiago, J. Alonso, et al.
*09- OECD/NEA: Radioactive waste management programmes in OECD/NEA Member countries: Spain, 2005, p.4-5
*10- World Nuclear News: Spain selects site for waste storage, 3 January 2012
*11- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in Spain, Update April 2012
*12- Deutschlandradio: Ein spanisches Dorf jubelt, weil es Atommüll lagern darf (A spanish town rejoices, because it can store nuclear waste),  16 February 2012
*13- Ee-news: Spanien: Atommüll-Lager bringt den Fortschritt nicht (Spain: nuclear waste storage does not bring progress), 21 March 2012 
*14- Meritxell Martell Lamolla: Identifying remaining socio-technical challenges at the national level: Spain, InSOTEC Working Paper (Draft), 1 March 2012

*01- See for an extensive historical overview of the waste problem in Sweden: Miles Goldstick Nuclear waste in Sweden –The problem is not solved!, FMKK, August 1988
*02- IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999
*03- SKB: Our current facilities, company website, visited April 2012
*04- Matthijs Hissemöller and Cees J.H. Midden, Technological Risk, Policy Theories and Public Perception in Connection with the Siting of Hazardous Facilities, Charles Vlek and George Cvetko­vitch (eds), Social Decision Methodology for Technological Projects, Kluwer Academic Publis­hers, 1989, p. 173-194
*05- PJ Richardson, Public Involvement in the Siting of Contenti­ous Facilities; Lessons from the radioactive waste repository siting programs in Canada and the United States, with special reference to the Swedish Repository Siting Process, Swedish Radiation Protection Institute, August 1997, p 26-27
*06- Nuclear Fuel: Another Swedish community rejects repository, 16 June 1997, p.17
*07- Nucleonics Week: Malaa voter rejection turns SKB back to plant sites for repository, 25 September 1997, p.15
*08- Marianne Löwgren: Nuclear Waste Management in Sweden: Balancing Risk Perceptions and Developing Community Consensus, in: Eric B. Herzik and Alvin H. Mushkatel, Problems and Prospects for Nuclear Waste Disposal Policy, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut / London, 1993, p. 105-121
*09- Olof Söderberg: Who Makes Which Decisions When?, in Proceedings DisTec'98, Disposal Technologies and Concepts 1998, International Conference on Radioactive Waste Disposal, 9-11 September, Hamburg, pp. 633-639
*10- Nuclear Fuel: New SKB head endorses cash incentives for repository host, 9 March 1998, p. 8-9
*11- Mark Elam and Göran Sundqvist, The Swedish KBS project: a last word in nuclear fuel safety prepares to conquer the world?, In: Journal of Risk Research, Volume 12 Issue 7 & 8 2009, December 2009, p. 969–988
*12- Nuclear Fuel: Swedisch government gives SKB approval to study 3 sites for possible repository, 12 November 2001, p. 8
*13- Nuclear Fuel: Tierp town council votes against site testing for Swedish repository, 15 April 2002, p.10-11
*14: SKB: SKB selects Forsmark for the final repository for spent nuclear fuel, press release 3 June 2009
*15: SKB: SKB turns in application for permit to build a final repository in Forsmark, press release 17 March 2011
*16- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in Sweden, February 2012
*17- SKB: Our method of final disposal, company website,
*18- Nils-Axel Mörner: The Shameful Nuclear Power, presentation 16 April 2008. See also: The uplift of Fennoscandia at:
*19- MKG: Copper corrosion, website MKG (Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review)
*20- Technisch Weekblad, 21 November 2009
*21- Dr. Johan Swahn: Considerations on nuclear waste management in Sweden, presentation at the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy public hearing on management of nuclear waste, 1 December 2010
*22- Johan Swahn: The Scandinavian Nuclear Waste Strategies, MKG, Expert Hearing Greens in het European Parliament, 8 juni 2010, p.10
*23- World Nuclear News: Swedish waste fees rise to reflect repository cost, 10 October 2011

*01- ee News: Beznau: Aeltestes AKW der Welt wird sichergerechnet, 29 February 2012
*02– IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999, p.50
*03- Dutch Minister of Health and Environmental sanitation: Zwitsers radioactief afval in IJmuiden (Swiss radioactive waste in IJmuiden), Tweede Kamer 15 676 nr 2, 20 July 1979
*04- Nagra: Entwicklung der Nagra 1972 bis 1980 (Development of Nagra 1972-1980), company website, visited April 2012-04-09
*05- Damveld/Van den berg: Discussions on nuclear waste, Laka Foundation, 2000, p.103
*06- Nagra: Opalinus Clay Project. Demonstration of feasibility of disposal (“Entsorgungsnachweis”) for spent fuel, vitrified high-level waste and long-lived intermediate-level waste, December 2002, p.7
*07- M. Fritschi: Standortwahl, (Site selection) in: Nagra Informiert, Nr. 24, June 1994, p.6-12
*08-Luzerner Neuste Nachrichten: Nagra scheitert am Wellenberg, (Nagra fails at Wellenberg) 26 June 1995
*09- Nagra Report: Was halten die Nidwaldner von Wellenberg? (What does population of Nidwalden think of Wellenberg?), Nr. 1/1996, p. 2-3
*10- Nucleonics Week: New Wellenberg studies confirm its safety and feasibility, 24 September 1998, p. 9-10
*11- Nagra News: Sondierstollen in Wellenberg abgelehnt –Wie geht es weiter? (Exploratory tunnels in Wellenberg rejected –How to continue?), December 2002, p.1
*12- NEA/OECD: The control of safety of radioactive waste management and decommissioning in Switzerland, 2011
*13- Nagra: Zeit zum Handeln, (Time to act), November 2008
*14- Allianz Nein zu neuen AKW: Nidwalden will keinen Atommüll – Atomstrom schon (Nidwalden does not want nuclear waste, but nuclear electricity), 14 February 2011
*15: Das Schweizer Parlament: Curia Vista, Zusammenfassung: 01.022; "MoratoriumPlus" und "Strom ohne Atom". Volksinitiativen und Kernenergiegesetz
*16- Neue Zürcher Zeitung, “Das nationale Endlager wird zur lokalen Frage; Neuartiges Partizipationsverfahren zur Atommüll-Tiefenlagerung”;   10 december 2009
*17- Tagesanzeiger, “Nagra zahlt für Endlager-Regionen”, 5 december 2010
*18- Nagra: Zeit zum Handeln, November 2008
*19- Energie & Umwelt: Das Atommuellproblem ist nicht geloest (The nuclear waste problem has not been solved), Schweizerische Energie Stiftung, 3/20, May 2010
*20- Bundesrat: Standortsuche für geologische Tiefenlager: Bundesrat legt sechs Gebiete fest und startet Etappe 2 (Search for geological disposal sites: Federal Council sets six sites and starts Stage 2), 1 December 2011
*21- Schweizerische Energie Stiftung: Die 12 ungelösten Fragen der Schweizer Atommüllentsorgung, (The 12 unanswered questions about the Swiss radioactive waste disposal), December 2011
*22- Schweizerische Energie Stiftung: Atommüll-Fragen müssen jetzt geklärt werden (Radioactive waste questions must be answered now), 9 January 2012
*23- Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Endlager-Standorte haben keine Garantie auf Entschädigung (Final disposal sites have no right for compensation),  6 March 2012

Pakistan, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Slovenia

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#746, 747, 748
Waste special


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The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) has responsibility for radioactive waste management. A Radioactive Waste Management Fund is proposed in a new proposed policy. Waste Management Centers are proposed for Karachi and Chashma.(*01) The low and intermediate level waste (short-lived) will be conditioned for pre-disposal and stored on site. After a period of time, this waste will be transported to a low and intermediate level waste disposal facility for permanent disposal.

The spent fuel from the reactors is presently stored in spent fuel pools at the plant site. It is planned that at each plant site Dry Storage Facilities will be established. The spent fuel which has cooled for over 10 years will be removed from  the pool and placed in Dry Storage. It is expected that the Dry Storage Facility will be licensed for 50 years or more.

Although Pakistan is not reprocessing its spent fuel from nuclear power plants, it has not yet declared it as waste. With increasing uranium prices, it may be feasible in the future to use the spent fuel as a resource and it may be reprocessed (under IAEA safeguards) to obtain material to be used in the production of mixed fuel. Therefore, at present, the decision to put the spent fuel in a non-retrievable Deep Geological Repository is postponed.(*02)

Although there is no sizable civil society, there are examples of people opposing nuclear developments, especially when nuclear waste is involved. This is also admitted by Tariq Bin Tahir Director General Nuclear Power Waste, PAEC, at a presentation at the World Nuclear Association in 2007. Speaking about the need for a disposal facility for low and intermediate waste: “Whereas there is no significant opposition when it comes to selecting a site for a nuclear power plant, siting for a waste site attracts an immediate negative response from the public. (…) The site selection therefore has more to do with socio-political acceptance rather than best technical choice.” Nevertheless, a number of sites are under consideration and, he expects that the disposal facility will start receiving waste in 6 years.(*03) But not much progress is made, because in 2008 a timeframe was mentioned of 8-11 years for a near-surface LILW-facility.(*04)

Also in 2008, at the same presentation, a time frame was published for a geological disposal facility for high-level waste and spent fuel (28-35 years), although it was unclear of the first phase, area survey and site characterization, had already started.

It looks like not much is happening: in one of the latest reports available on the PAEC website(*05) it is only mentioned that work remained in progress in 2009 on “Draft National Policy on Control and Safe Management of Radioactive Waste”. The Draft Policy aims at “establishing a national commitment to control and manage radioactive waste generated in the country in accordance with national legislation/regulations and international standards.” The construction of a dry spent fuel storage facility is still 'planned'


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Baita Bihor repository started operation in 1985 and is a disposal facility for low en intermediate-level waste from industry, medicine and research activities. Disposal galleries are former uranium exploration galleries that have been enlarged. A new near-surface repository is under consideration at Saligny, inside the exclusion zone of the nuclear power plant. A feasibility study is prepared. The conceptual design is similar to those of L’Aube (France), El Cabril (Spain) repositories. (*01)

Used fuel is stored at the reactors for up to ten years. It is then transferred to the Interim Spent Fuel Storage Facility (DICA), a dry storage facility for spent fuel based on the Macstor system designed by AECL for about 50 years. The first module was commissioned in 2003. Regarding the spent fuel from research reactors policy is return to the country of origin and/or deep geological disposal in the national repository. No reprocessing takes place.

The research of the geological environment for a deep geological repository of spent fuel and high-level waste, which should be available around 2055 is at a very preliminary stage.(*02) In the 1990’s, studies identified as potential host rock the following geological formations: salt, volcanic tuff, granite, shield green slate – Moesian Platform, clay. One to several potential host rock were identified in each geological formation. Over the last years, several R&D studies on general aspects of studying host rocks for a geological repository and general reference design concepts were performed by different organizations within the national R&D supported programs. (*03)

Since Romania is a country with a small nuclear energy program the preliminary estimation of the costs for sitting and construction of a deep geological disposal for spent fuel and long lived waste in a national repository are extremely high. This is the reason for Romania to consider that deep geological disposal in an international repository "could be a better solution for avoidance of leaving unfair burden for future generations," according to a 2003 statement.(*04)

Russian Federation

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Russia will soon start storing spent fuel in a new centralized 'dry' interim storage facility (ISF) at Zheleznogorsk, near Krasnoyarsk. The first phase of the facility, for RBMK-fuel, was completed December 2011, and the first fuel was planned to in March 2012. Reprocessing has always been a major part of waste management. The Russian Federation (and its predecessor the Soviet Union) is the champion of sea dumping. It dumped low and intermediate level waste in Arctic Seas (1964-1991): liquid radioactive waste in Arctic Seas (1959-1991); objects with spent nuclear fuel in Arctic Seas (1965-1981); liquid (1966-1992) and solid (19680-1992) waste in the Pacific Ocean; liquid waste in Barents Sea and Far Eastern Seas (1992) and finally, liquid radioactive waste in Sea of Japan (1993).)(*01). The Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom is responsible for waste management, but in March 2012, a National Operator for management of radioactive waste was established in accordance with the “Federal Law on the Radioactive Waste management” signed in summer 2011.(*02)

Interim storage and reprocessing
Russia needs to build a centralized long-term dry storage due to the limited capacity of existing storage pools. In 19 December 2011, the first phase of a centralized storage facility has been completed at the Mining and Chemical Combine (MCC) at Zheleznogorsk. The initial stage of the facility will be used for storing 8129 metric tons of RBMK fuel from Leningrad (4 units), Kursk (5) and Smolensk (3 reactors). The used fuel from these plants is currently stored in on-site cooling pools, but these are reaching full-capacity, and spent fuel discharges are expected to exceed on site storage capacity. (*03)

The second stage of the facility, for VVER-fuel, is now beginning. Later, used VVER-1000 fuel from reactors at the Balakovo, Kalinin, Novovoronezh and Rostov plants will also be stored at the facility. VVER fuel has already been sent to Zheleznogorsk for storage in water pools. The ISF - measuring some 270 meters in length, 35 meters wide and 40 meters high - will ultimately hold 38,000 tons of used RBMK and VVER fuel.

The fuel will be stored in the facility for up to 50 years,(*04) during which time substantial reprocessing capacity should be brought online. Currently, Russia reprocesses about 16% of the used fuel produced each year, but Russia aims to reprocess 100% in the year 2020.(*05)

In the long-term, a geological repository for high-level radioactive waste is planned.

No waste repository is yet available, though site selection is proceeding in granite on the Kola Peninsula. In 2003 Krasnokamensk in the Chita region 7000 km east of Moscow was suggested as the site for a major spent fuel repository. (*06)

Since the early 1970s, Minatom (Ministry of Atomic Energy) has been studying various sites and geologic formations to determine their suitability for use in the construction of underground radioactive waste isolation facilities. According to the regional approach that has been developed in Russia with regard to the selection of geologic sites for permanent isolation, it is most expedient to have the burial sites near the waste sources. Purposeful research for the high-level waste geological isolation has been done in the two areas where the Mayak Production Association (Chelyabinsk Oblast) and the Mining-Chemical Complex are located. After the results of all research studies were analyzed, two sites nearby Mayak reprocessing plant were selected as top priorities.

A second Russian geological isolation site is the Nizhnekansk granitoid massif, one of the largest massifs in central Siberia, very close to the MCM. It is composed of various types of magmatic and metamorphic rock. Here, also two specific sites were selected. In 2005, however, because of a lack of financing, work on the study at the two Nizhnekansk sites was halted. (*07)

Then in 2008 the Nizhnekansky sites were on the table again as a site for a national deep geological repository. Rosatom said the terms of reference for the facility construction would be tabled by 2015 to start design activities and set up an underground rock laboratory. A decision on construction is due by 2025, and the facility itself is to be completed by 2035.(*08)

Although the import of foreign fuel for the purpose of final disposal is prohibited, much Russian-origin spent fuel is imported. In the 1990s contracts for fuel for reprocessing, has been signed with Ukraine, Bulgaria (both for spent fuel from nuclear power plants), Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Czech Republic and Latvia (spent fuel form research reactors). The contracts envisage the return of the solidified radioactive waste resulting from the reprocessing. (*09) During Soviet times, spent fuel from VVER-440 reactors in Finland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia was shipped to Mayak for reprocessing. (*10)

The reprocessing waste from Russian-origin fuel can be left in Russia. Most of the Russian-origin fuel that Russia has repatriated has not been reprocessed in Russia's existing reprocessing plant, however, but is in long-term storage pending the construction of a larger reprocessing plant.(*11)

Slovak Republic

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The state regulation over nuclear safety for radioactive waste and spent fuel management is entrusted to the Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Slovak Republic (ÚJD SR) established on 1 January 1993.(*01)

Low and intermediate level waste is stored at a near-surface disposal facility in Mochovche. Selection of the site has been carried out between 1975-1979 out of 34 sites. Permission was granted in1999 and operation started in 2001.(*02)

Spent fuel was transported prior to 1987 to Soviet Union for storage and reprocessing: all spent fuel from Bohunice A-1  as well as VVER-440 fuel. Currently spent fuel is not reprocessed.

Waste management strategy is long-term interim storage (40-50) years at a facility at Bohunice, called MSVP, in pools. MSV is in operation since  1987.(*03)

Looking for international solution
Slovakia started its own program of development of deep geological disposal in 1996. Fifteen potentially suitable areas for further investigation were identified, later narrowed to three distinct areas: with five localities: three in granitoid rocks, two in sedimentary rocks environment.(*04)

The research program had been stopped in 2001,(*05) however, and a new strategy had been specified by the government in 2008: disposal in deep geological repository; international solution (export to Russian Federation, international repository); zero alternative, interim storage for a further not specified period of time (“wait and see“ approach).(*06)

The handling of spent fuel after interim storage has not been defined in the Slovak Republic. It can be assumed that this will hamper the determined search for a location for a repository and for the development of a repository concept. According the original plans, decision on selection of the host environment was expected after 2005, selection of a candidate site around 2010, and commissioning of a deep geological repository by 2037.(*07) This has now been postponed for an indefinite period of time.

There is no definition, whether the five locations shall be further explored in case of a decision for a Slovak repository. A time schedule for the further procedure is not stipulated as far as publicly known.(*08)


Nr. of reactors

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The Agency for Radwaste Management is the state-owned public service for radioactive waste management. It is financed through the national budget and partially through the Fund for the Decommissioning of the Krško nuclear power plant. Operational low and intermediate-level wastes are stored on site of the Krsko nuclear power plant, as is used fuel. (*01

A permanent repository for low- and intermediate-level wastes is due to open in 2013 at Vrbina, near the Krsko plant. Site selection has been undertaken over five years, and compensation of 5 million euro per year will be paid to the local community. Vrbina is only for Slovenia's portion of the waste, although it could be doubled in case of an agreement between with Croatia or further use of nuclear power. It will also hold all of Slovenia's industrial and medical radioactive waste as well as the LLW and ILW from the 250 kW research reactor at the Josef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana.(*02)

The 2006 long-term strategy for spent fuel management foresees spent fuel storage in dry casks. Spent fuel will be moved to dry storage between 2024 and 2030 and will be stored until 2065, when a deep geological repository is assured. The operational phase of the spent fuel repository will end in 2070 and the repository should be closed in 2075. In the case of export option, the removal of spent fuel from dry storage is planned between 2066 and 2070. The option of multinational disposal is kept open.(*03)

A particular problem for waste management could be the fact that the reactor at Krško is operated jointly together with Croatia. Differing interests and responsibilities of the two countries may lead to problems when developing a Waste-Management Concept, or with respect to the financing of the Waste Management and to the determination of a location for the repository. The final disposal of the spent fuel is planned, however no efforts are visible regarding the realization.(*04)


*01- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in Pakistan, March 2012
*02- Director General Nuclear Power Waste, PAEC: Radioactive Waste Management Policy & Strategy of Pakistan, September 2007
*03- Tariq Bin Tahir, September 2007
*04- Bymanzur Hussain, Directorate General National Repository PAEC: Status of Radioactive Waste Disposal in Pakistan, April 2008
*05- Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA): Convention on Nuclear Safety, Report by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for the Fifth Review Meeting, 2011, September 2010

*01- Nuclear Agency & Radioactive Waste (AN&DR):  Romania Nuclear Power Sector Reverse Trade Mission September 6 - 16, 2010 United States of America. Powerpoint presentation.
*02- European Commission: Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management in the European Union, Seventh Situation Report, 22 August 2011, p.58
*03- Nuclear Agency & Radioactive Waste (AN&DR), September 2010
*04- Romania: Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, First National Report, March 2005

Russian Federation
*01- IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999
*02- RIA Novosti, National Operator for radioactive waste management has been appointed, 2 April 2012
*03- Nuclear Fuel: Russia on track to complete spent fuel facility by 2015, 6 February 2012, 5
*04- World Nuclear News: Russia commissions fuel storage facility, 30 January 2012
*05- Nuclear Fuel, 6 February 2012
*06- World Nuclear Association: Russia's Nuclear Fuel Cycle, March 2012
*07- Tatyana A. Gupalo: Creation of Underground Laboratories at the Mining-Chemical Complex and at Mayak to Study the Suitability of Sites for Underground Isolation of Radioactive Wastes, published in: An International Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility, The National Academies Press, 2005. p.240-247
*08- World Nuclear Association: Russia's Nuclear Fuel Cycle, March 2012
*09- Russian Federation: The National Report of the Russian Federation on Compliance with the obligations on the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, October 2008, p.97-98
*10- International Panel on Fissile Materials: Managing nuclear spent fuel from nuclear power reactors, 2011, p.73
*11- Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Managing nuclear spent fuel: Policy lessons from a 10-country study, 27 June 2011

Slovak Republic
*01- UJD: UJD SR established, company website
*02- OECD: Radioactive waste management programmes in OECD/NEA member countries: Slovak Republic, 2005, p. 5
*03- Slovak Republic: National Report of the Slovak Republic compiled in terms of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radwaste Management, August 2011
*04- Slovak Republic: Answers on questions on the National Report of the Slovak Republic, April 2009
*05- Wolfgang Neumann, Nuclear Waste Management in the EU, October 2010, p. 72
*06-  Slovak Republic, August 2011, p.95
*07- Slovak Republic, April 2009
*08- Wolfgang Neumann, October 2010

*01- Republic of Slovenia: Fourth Slovenian Report under the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, October 2011
*02- World Nuclear News: Permanent store for Slovenian waste, 15 January 2010
*03- Republic of Slovenia:, October 2011, p.14
*04- Wolfgang Neumann: Nuclear Waste Management in the EU, October 2010, p 75

Rep. of Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#746, 747, 748
Waste special

Korea, Republic of

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Low and intermediate-level waste is stored at the sub-surface Gyeongju LILW repository at a depth of 80 meters. Korea dumped low-level waste in the Sea of Japan 5 times from 1968-1972.(*01) High-level waste is stored at the reactor sites, pending construction of a centralized interim storage facility (possibly by 2016). No date for operation of a final disposal facility has been established, although long-term, deep geological disposal is envisaged. Whether this is for used fuel as such or reprocessing wastes depends on national policy and will be decided later.(*02)

The Atomic Energy Act of 1988 established a 'polluter pays' principle under which nuclear power plant operators paid a fee into a national Nuclear Waste Management Fund. A revised waste program was drawn up by the Nuclear Environment Technology Institute and approved by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in 1998.(*03)

South Korea’s key national laws relating to spent fuel and radioactive waste management are the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) and the Radioactive Waste Management Act (RWMA). The AEA provides for safety regulations and licensing for  construction and operation of radioactive-waste disposal facilities. The RWMA, which was announced in 2008, and enacted in March 2010, established the Korea Radioactive Waste Management Corporation (KRMC) and the Radioactive Waste Management Fund in which KHNP, the nuclear utility company, annually deposits funds for decommissioning its nuclear power plants, disposing of their LILW, and managing their spent fuel.(*04) KHNP now contributes a fee of 900,000 won (US$ 705) per kilogram of used fuel.(*05)

Reprocessing, either domestic or overseas, is not possible under constraints imposed by the country's cooperation agreement with the USA.(*06)  Reprocessing will be central at the renewal negotiations of the agreement in 2014. KHNP has considered offshore reprocessing to be too expensive, and recent figures based on Japanese contracts with Areva in France support this view, largely due to transport costs. (*07)

Low and intermediate level waste
South Korea’s attempts to site a central interim spent-fuel storage facility and repository for low and intermediate level waste (LILW) began in 1986. During the following decades, a number of failed attempts to acquire sites to host such facilities, due to fierce local opposition (*08) despite steadily growing incentive offers, (*09) were made.  In December 2004, therefore, the AEC decided to pursue separate sites for the LILW repository and the central interim spent-fuel storage facility, starting with the LILW site, which was seen as politically easier. In March 2005, a Special Act on Support for Areas Hosting Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility was passed that guaranteed a local government hosting the national LILW facility an exemption from hosting a spent-fuel storage facility. The central government required a local referendum on hosting the facility and offered more incentives.

Success was finally achieved. Four cities competed to host the facility and Gyeongju City won after 89.5 percent of its voters approved hosting the site in November 2005. (*10) Construction started in April 2008 and in December 2010 KRWM commenced operation of the facility, accepting the first 1000 drums of wastes, which will be held in outdoor storage until the underground repository itself is commissioned in 2012. (*11)

SF-storage, temporarily or interim?
Dry storage for spent fuel has already been built at the Wolsong site, and more is being built there. Some argue that this is illegal because the national low- and intermediate-level waste repository is adjacent to the Wolsong nuclear power plant and, according to the 2005 Special Act on Support for Areas Hosting Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility, the same community cannot be required to host both the national LILW repository and interim spent fuel storage facilities. The KRMC argues, however, that the on-site dry storage facilities at Wolsong are “temporary,” not the “interim” storage that is banned by the special Act.

A major reason for South Korea’s political failures in siting a central spent-fuel storage site was that its early site-selection process did not include consultation with local communities. Instead, the central government selected sites based on its own assessments, met strong opposition from the proposed host region, and gave up. (*12)

In April 2007, after the success in siting the LILW repository, a task force was established to design a process to achieve a public consensus on spent fuel management. Based on the task force’s report, in July 2009, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) established a committee to manage the process. A month later, however, the process was suspended and MKE announced that a legal framework and a solicitation of expert opinion were required first. An expert group composed of members of South Korea’s nuclear establishment was instructed to carry out a year-long research project during 2010 as a basis for the public consensus process.(*13)

If it is to be credible, however, such a public consensus process for spent fuel management will have to be open and transparent and involve local communities and independent experts. Whether or not the public consensus process will in fact be finally launched remains to be seen.

The R&D program on the disposal technology of high-level radioactive waste was initiated in 1997. After 10 years into the research program, a reference disposal system called the Korea Reference System (KRS) was formulated in 2006 on the basis of the results of the R&D program, which included performance and safety assessment, and studies on the geo-environmental conditions in Korea, an engineered barrier system, and the migration of radionuclides.

For the validation of the KRS, a project for constructing a generic underground research tunnel in a crystalline rock called the Korea Underground Research Tunnel (KURT) started in 2003. Following the site characterization study, the tunnel design, and the construction licensing, the construction of the KURT located at the KAERI site started in May 2005. Controlled drill and blasting techniques were applied to excavate a 6m wide, 6m high and 255m long horseshoe-shaped tunnel with a 10% downward slope. After the completion of this construction of the KURT in November 2006, various in-situ tests are being carried out for the validation of HLW disposal techniques. (*14) The third phase of R&D study ended in February 2007 and phase four is underway. The Korean reference disposal system to accommodate all kinds of wastes from the advanced fuel cycle will be developed. And key technologies developed in third phase will be verified.(*15)

The KURT facility will not need to use radioactive sources to validate HLW approaches which are strictly prohibited by law. Rather, the facility will conduct a series of experiments to investigate “groundwater flow and rock mass characteristics” which with the participation of the local population could help to build trust.(*16)


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The last reactor at the nuclear power plant in Lithuania, Ignalina, was closed permanently on 31 December 2010. The shutdown of the two Soviet-designed RBMK reactors was a condition of the accession to the European Union. The EU has agreed to pay decommissioning costs for the two RBMK reactors and some compensation through to 2013. Unit 1 of the Ignalina plant was shut at the end of 2004. (*01) Currently Lithuania is actively pursuing the construction of a new nuclear power plant: Visaginas. This is expected to operate from 2020 and is to be built in collaboration with Estonia, Latvia and Poland. However, in December 2011, Poland withdrew from the project. (*02)

All spent fuel is stored on site of Ignalina. First storage pools near the reactor and interim dry storage in the detached facility, where the spent fuel is stored in the same casks it is transported. It was intended to store the fuel unloaded from the reactor for several years and then to transfer it for processing to Russia. According to the Law on Environmental Protection (1992, last amended 2003), the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel is prohibited. After that a decision was made to build a dry type interim storage for spent nuclear fuel at INPP and store it for 50 years.

The 2008 revised Strategy on Radioactive Waste Management, includes the construction of a new spent fuel interim storage facility; the transfer of spent fuel to the dry storage facilities; and to analyze the possibilities to dispose spent fuel and long-lived radioactive waste in Lithuania or to reprocess or dispose it in other countries.

Future strategy
Initial studies on geological disposal possibilities of the spent fuel were performed. The main objective was to demonstrate that in principle it is possible to implement a direct disposal in a safe way. The objective does not imply that disposal of spent fuel will take place in Lithuania. Which option shall be used for the potential disposal of spent fuel is to a large extent a political decision, and this investigation will be an important input to such decision once required.(*03)

Lithuania should start selection of a site for geological repository in 2030, if international practice is the same and there is no new advanced technologies applicable. In addition, possibilities to prolong storagetime in the storage containers are to be investigated.(*04)


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In 1998 a Radioactive Waste Management Policy project was started, which "unfortunately has not been issued due to socio-political obstacles." Currently there is no formally established policy for radioactive waste management. (*01) No reprocessing takes place.

On site storage spent fuel
The Energy Ministry is beginning to take administrative and budgetary steps to create a national company to manage its radioactive waste. It is also planning to sign the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management

An engineered near-surface disposal site for low-level waste (LLW) operated at Piedrera between 1985 and 1987. A collection, treatment and storage centre for LLW has operated at Maquixco since 1972. (*02)

Pending final solution, spent fuel is stored on site in modified spent fuel pools, (*03) increasing drastically the maximum capacity, "providing the time to develop an integral long-term strategy". (*04) But even 20 years later in a January 2010 presentation atmitted no specific disposal plan was established. Javier Palacios, head of ININ (National Commission for Nuclear Safety and Security) named the strategy and action on nuclear waste: "Formulating a national policy for the management of radioactive waste generated in the country". (*05)


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The Netherlands is searching for deep geological disposal in salt (and more recently in clay) since 1976. Spent fuel is reprocessed and interim storage of reprocessing waste takes place in a bunker at the Covra-facility in Vlissingen for about 100 years.(*01). The country dumped low and intermediate level waste in sea from 1967 to 1982.(*02) Since then all dutch LLW and ILW is stored at the Covra, first at Petten and since 1992 at Vlissingen.(*03)

The search for a suitable saltdome
On 18 June 1976 the government wrote a letter to the Executive Board of the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe. The letter stated that five salt domes are eligible for test drilling: Gasselte Schoonlo, Pieterburen, Onstwedde and Anloo.(*04) The government thought actual storage could begin around the year 2000. (*05) According to J. Hamstra, then the main government adviser on nuclear waste, the storage of nuclear waste in the German Asse salt dome was an important argument to investigate salt domes in the Netherlands.(*06) Action groups against the plans were created inmmediately everywhere in Groningen and Drenthe.(*07) In March 1980 the Dutch parliament rejected test drillings and decided to hold a Social Debate on Energy (MDE), although everyone called it the Broad Social Discussion (BMD in Dutch). It was decided to delay exploratory drilling until after the BMD.(*08)

In 1984, shortly after the BMD, plans for test drilling reappeared again with the Commission Storage at Land (OPLA),(*09) although no specific proposals were mentioned. But in an 1987 interim report, OPLA listed 34 salt domes and salt layers in five northern provinces.(*10) Again, this list led to many protests.

A new attempt to discuss the problem of nuclear waste, was when, in 1987, Environment minister Nijpels (VVD, Liberals), started a consultation process about criteria the storage must meet.(*11) But Nijpels made a false start publishing an almost unreadable paper for the participation process, leading to discussions and protests even at governmental level. (*12)

On May 14, 1993 the then Environment Minister Alders (PvdA, Social Democrats) wrote that underground storage will be allowed, when 'permanent retrievability' is assured. One should always be able to get to the nuclear waste, but salt domes are slowly silting up. Alders therefor called storage in salt "not very realistic", but wanted "further inquiry" into storage in salt and - a new possibility - in clay. (*13)

To study permanent retrievability, the Ministry of Economic Affairs inaugurated in 1995 the Commission Radioactive Waste Disposal (CORA), which published its report 'Retrievable storage, a accessible path? ' in February 2001. Exploratory drilling and further studies in salt domes or clay layers are to be postponed, but not canceled definetely. The nuclear waste remains above ground…. for the moment.

In the years that followed different governments voiced the same opinion. Former Environment Minister Cramer for instance wrote to parliament on June 30, 2009: "In the current state of science and technology only geological (deep underground) disposal of highly radioactive waste is a solution, which ensures the waste will, even after millions of years, remains outside the living space (biosphere) of humans." (*14)  According to the minister future policy will be "directed at retrievable final disposal of radioactive waste in deep underground." She also stated that the report about the preconditions for the construction of new nuclear power plants, which will be published in the spring of 2010, will discuss "possible future policy on radioactive waste."The government wants a discussion about nuclear power with "experts and stakeholders."

To prepare such a discussion the government commissioned a report from the Dutch Nuclear Research & Consultancy Group (NRG). The regional newspaper Nieuwsblad van het Noorden quoted from the still classified report on December 14, 2009. According to the report, which speaks of disposal in deep underground stable geological formations, the government should increase its efforts to convince authorities and public of the necessity of storage of nuclear waste, without questioning risks and dangers. As a precondition for the construction of a new nuclear reactor –in operation in 2020-  the reports states: “final disposal is an accepted idea in 2015.” “There must be a step-to-step scheme to realize acceptance of geological disposal”, according to NRG.

On January 8 2010, the Advice for guidelines for the Environmental Impact Report for the construction of a second nuclear power plant at Borssele was published by the ministry.(*15) In it it says: "Give attention to the possibilities of final disposal of radioactive waste". Meaning disposal in salt or clay. The Covra (the 100% state-owned organisation responsible for storing all radioactive waste) started a new research project on July 5, 2011: Research Program Final Disposal Radioactive Waste (in Dutch OPERA).(*16) "In the current state of science and technology only geological disposal of highly radioactive waste is a solution, which ensures the waste will, for the long term, remains outside the living space (biosphere) of humans." And: "The decision about a disposal facility for Dutch radioactive waste is a process with a very long time horizon (according to the current policy at least 100 years) that will be implemented gradually." … "International experience show this is at least a 20-25 year long process. The ultimate construction of the facility is expected to take another 5-10 years. This means final disposal in the Netherlands will not be in operation before 2130". (*17)

In 2011, Greenpeace commissioned T&A Survey to do a study about underground clay-layers in the Netherlands. Conclusion of the research is that the so-called Klei van Boom (Boom's clay)  meet the preconditions announced by the government for waste disposal in four area's.

Then Greenpeace started an intensive campaign against the disposal in these clay-layers. Early February 2012, over 80 concerned municipalities and all provinces made statements opposing underground disposal of radioactive waste on its territories. (*18)


Korea, Republic of
*01- IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999, p.40
*02- OECD: Radioactive waste management in Republic of Korea, 2010, p.10
*03- World Nuclear Association, Nuclear Power in South Korea, March 2012
*04- OECD, 2010, p.
*05- World Nuclear Association, March 2012
*06- South Korea’s nuclear energy development has been made possible by the ROK-U.S. Atomic Energy Agreement signed in 1972. The United States provided nuclear technologies and materials necessary for the peaceful use of nuclear energy; in return, South Korea was specifically prohibited from proliferation-related activities such as the reprocessing of spent fuel and uranium enrichment under the terms of the agreement. After three decades of successful bilateral nuclear cooperation, the two governments are due to renew the accord by 2014. See: Seongho Sheen: Nuclear Sovereignty versus Nuclear Security: Renewing the ROK-U.S. Atomic Energy Agreement, in The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, Vol. 23, No. 2, June 2011, 273–288
*07- Nuclear Fuel: Reprocessing cost might exceed KHNP’s spent fuel management fees, 13 July 2009, p. 1
*08- see for instance the case of Buan; Nuclear Monitor 591: Massive actions against proposed South Korean waste dump, 22 August 2003, p.5
*09- Seong-Kyung Cho and Jooho Whang, “Status and Challenges of Nuclear Power Program and Reflections of Radioactive Waste Management Policy in Korea,” 2009 Advanced Summer School of Radioactive Waste Disposal with Social-Scientific Literacy, Berkeley, CA, 3 — 10 August 2009        
*10- Korea Herald: Gyeongju wins vote for nuclear dump, 3 November 2005
*11- World Nuclear Association, March 2012
*12- Seong-Kyung Cho and Jooho Whang, August 2009
*13- This is based on several South Korean news items in 2009, quoted in: IPFM, Managing spent fuel from nuclear power reactors, 2011, p. 68
*14- Republic of Korea: Korean Third National Report under the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, October 2008, p.91
*15- OECD, 2010, p.12
*16- Miles Pomper, Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, Stephanie Lieggi, and Lawrence Scheinman: Nuclear Power and Spent Fuel in East Asia: Balancing Energy, Politics and Nonproliferation, Asia-Pacific Journal: 21 June 2010

*01- World Nuclear News: Lithuania shuts Ignalina plant, 4 January 2011)
*02- World Nuclear News: Lithuanian project makes progress, 30 March 2012
*03- Lithuania: Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, Second National Report, 2008
*04- Algirdas Vaidotas: Radioactive waste management in Lithuania; implementation and strategies, Deputy Director Radioactive Waste Management Agency (RATA), 4 November 2011

*01- IAEA: Country Profile Mexico
*02- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in Mexico, March 2012
*03- OECD: Radioactive waste management programmes in OECD countries: Mexico, 2005.
*04- Augusto Vera: Laguna Verde Station approach to nuclear waste, Comision Federal de Electricidad, 1993
*05- Javier Palacios H.: Situación de los Desechos Radioactivos en México, presentation at OLADE, 25-27 February 2010.

*01- COVRA: Beleid (Policy), COVRA website
*02- IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999.
*03- Energie en Milieuspectrum: Radioactief afval een eeuw onderdak (Radioactive waste under a shelter for a century), March 1994
*04- Letter Minister Economic Affairs Lubbers and Minister of Public Health and Enviroment Vorrink to Gedeputeerde Staten (Executive Board) of Groningen and Drenthe, 18 June 1976. Reference 376/-II/1055/EEK.
*05- ICK-commissie; Subcommissie Radioactieve Afvalstoffen (RAS), Eerste interimrapport betreffende de mogelijkheden van opslag van radioactieve afvalstoffen in zoutvoorkomens in Nederland, (1977).(ICK-Commission Subcommission Radioactive Waste (RAS). First interimreport about possibilities for the disposal of radioactive waste substances in salt formations in the Netherlands.)
*06- Atoomenergie, July/August 1974, pp. 175-181.
*07- An anthology of press publications and comments on the disposal proposals can be found in: Meent van der Suis, Energie en milieu in de Nederlandse krant 1968-1993, (19933). (Energy and environment in the Dutch newspapers 1968-1993)
*08- Tweede Kamer, session 1979-1980, 15802, nrs. 11-12, p.160.
*09- Tweede Kamer, session 1984-1985, 18343, 6.
*10- Commissie Opberging te Land (OPLA): Onderzoek inzake geologische opberging van radioactief afval in Nederland, Tweede Tussenrapport over Fase 1 (January 1986-January 1987), 1987. (Commission Storage on Land. Research for geological disposal of radioactive waste in the Netherlands. Second Interim report on Phase 1)
*11- Ministerie of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment (VROM): Basisnotitie ten behoeve van de ontwikkeling van een toetsingscriterium voor de ondergrondse opberging van radioactief afval (TOR), (1987). (Basic notes for development of assessment criteria for the underground disposal of radioactive waste)
*12- Stichting Natuur en Milieu: Reactie namens de hele Nederlandse milieubeweging op de zogeheten TOR-nota (26 October 1987). (Reaction for the Dutch Environmental movement on the so-called TOR-notes)
*13- Tweede Kamer, session 1992-1993, 23163, nr 1.
*14-  Ministry of VROM, Reference RB/2009040895, 30 June 2009
*15- Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (EL&I): Advice for guidelines for the Environmental Impact Report for the construction of a second nuclear power plant at Borssele, 3 December 2009 / reportnumber: 2295-48
*16- COVRA press release: Start OPERA program, 5 July 2011
*17- OPERA: Mutiannual program OPERA, 5 July 2011.
*18- see picture (greenpeace brochure  -blz 5, of website)
*19- Greenpeace campaign website, (visited February 8, 2012)

China, Czech Republic, Finland, France

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#746, 747, 748
Waste special


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In China, there are two storage facilities for intermediate-level waste and a centralized facility for high-level waste. A geological disposal repository for high-level waste will start operation in 2050 at the earliest.

When China started to develop nuclear power, a 'closed fuel cycle' strategy was formulated and declared at an International Atomic Energy Agency conference in 1987: at-reactor storage; away-from-reactor storage; and reprocessing. China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC)  has drafted a state regulation on civil spent fuel treatment as the basis for a long-term government program. There is a levy of CNY 2.6 cents/kWh on used fuel, to pay for its management, reprocessing, and the eventual disposal of HLW.(*01)

China began construction of a multi-purpose reprocessing pilot plant at Lanzhou nuclear complex in July 1997. This project was approved in July 1986 and began receiving spent fuels from Daya Bay reactors in September 2004. The plant is fully operational.

Moreover, a commercial reprocessing plant (800 tHM/a) is planned to be in commission around 2020 at the Lanzhou Nuclear Complex, and site selection has already begun.(*02) However, as of December 2009, no final agreement had been reached between China and France on the transfer of the relevant technologies; the plant construction appears to remain on hold.(*03)

Interim storage and final disposal
In the 1980’s, radioactive waste disposal work was initiated in China. The former Ministry of Nuclear Industry (MNI) subsidiary Science and Technology Committee set up a panel of radioactive waste treatment and disposal. The siting of solid LILW disposal site began in the 1980’s and was implemented under the auspice of the former Ministry of Nuclear Industry. Industrial-scale disposal of low- and intermediate-level wastes is at two sites, near Yumen in northwest Gansu province, and at the Beilong repository in Guangdong province, near the Daya Bay nuclear plant. These are the first two of five planned regional low- and intermediate-level waste disposal facilities.(*04)

A centralized used fuel storage facility has been built at Lanzhou Nuclear Fuel Complex, 25 km northeast of Lanzhou in central Gansu province. The initial stage of that project has a storage capacity of 550 tons and could be doubled.(*05) However, most used fuel is stored at reactor sites. New Chinese plant designs include on-site spent fuel storage with a capacity of 20 years worth of spent fuel.(*06)

Although most of China’s nuclear power plants are located in the more populated eastern regions, storage facilities are located in the far west. This policy is likely aimed at avoiding local opposition to locating these facilities near populated areas, signaling at least a marginal impact that public opinion might have on Chinese policies.

However, as one Chinese nuclear expert observed, unlike democratic systems where public opinion holds significant sway, the decision of the Chinese government is really “the only decisive factor for spent fuel management in China.”(*07) Since 2003, the spent fuel from two nuclear power plants in the southeastern province of Guangdong has been shipped to the Gansu facility – a distance of about 4000 kilometers. This is consistent with CNNC policy to ship spent fuel by rail to centralized storage facilities for interim storage and reprocessing.(*08)

In 1985, CNNC worked out an R&D program for the deep geological disposal of high/level waste. The preliminary repository concept is a shaft-tunnel model, located in saturated zones in granite.(*09)

Site selection and evaluation has been under way since then and is focused on three candidate locations in the Beishan area of Gansu province and will be completed by 2020. All are in granite. An underground research laboratory will then be built 2015-20 and operate for 20 years. The third step is to construct the final repository from 2040 and to carry out demonstration disposal. Acceptance of high-level wastes into a national repository is anticipated from 2050.(*10)

The regulatory authorities of high-level radioactive waste disposal projects are Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) and the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA). The China Atomic Energy Agency (CAEA) is in charge of the project control and financial management. CNNC deals with implementation, and four CNNC subsidiaries are key players: Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology (BRIUG) handles site investigation and evaluation, engineered barrier study and performance analyses, with the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) undertaking radionuclide migration studies. The China Institute for Radiation Protection (CIRP) is responsible for safety assessment, and the China Nuclear Power Engineering Company (CNPE) works on engineering design.(*11)

Czech Republic

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State-owned utility CEZ is fully responsible for storage and management of its spent fuel until it is handed over to the state organization SURAO (RAWRA in English: Radioactive Waste Repository Authority), founded on 1 June 1997.(*01) Eventual provision of a high-level waste repository is the responsibility of RAWRA. Most of low and intermediate level waste is stored on site or moved to the near-surface repository in operation at Dukovany.(*02)

Long-term interim storage
The concept preferred at the moment is the long-term interim storage of spent fuel in container interim storage facilities at the sites of the nuclear power plants at Temelin and Dukovany. Problem concerning this is that the spent fuel must be stored in an interim storage facility for a very long period of time, because the final disposal in a repository is only planned after 2065. The condition of the nuclear waste or the level of the hazard potential of the waste at that stage is unforeseeable.(*03)

In agreement with the Policy for radioactive waste and spent fuel management of 2002 the Czech Republic anticipates to develop a national deep geological repository in magmatic crystallytic rocks (granites or homogenous gneiss massifs) after 2050 and it should start operation in 2065.

The program of the repository development started back in 1992 (in the first year jointly with the Slovak Republic). Thirty potential locations were gradually identified, of which 12 potential locations were selected with varied geological conditions and diverse host rocks. The first geological survey was performed on six locations with granitic massifs in 2003 – 2005, without utilization of surface survey methods, and areas were selected for future prospecting stage of the geological survey. The works were suspended in 2005 due to public resistance.(*04) On 17 December 2009 “as a gesture of goodwill”, RAWRA announced that it will make it possible for communities to claim a financial compensation for geological research work of potentially CZK 100 million in total.(*05)

On November 25, 2010 a working group for dialogue was established to “strengthen the transparency of the process of selection a suitable site for a deep geological repository of spent nuclear fuel and high level waste, with respect to the public interests and to facilitate the active participation of the public and the communities in particular in the related decision-making process.”(*06)

Based on results of the completed stage of negotiations with the general public the Administration anticipates the start of surveying works start gradually after “negotiations with the general public are completed" and “only if the affected municipalities get involved on a voluntary basis in the selection process of the future deep geological repository location.”(*07) One possible site is at Skalka in southern Moravia. In the late 1990s, this site was considered for a centralized used fuel interim storage facility as an alternative to the Temelin storage facility and to the storage capacity expansion at Dukovany (beyond the 600 t facility).(*08)


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In 1994, the Nuclear Energy Act came into force, according to which all nuclear waste must be treated, stored and disposed of in Finland. Before that some of the spent fuel was sent to Russia.(*01) Posiva Oy is responsible for the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel. It is established in 1995 by TVO and Fortum, two owners of nuclear power plants.(*02) Storage of spent fuel takes place on site until the final repository is finished. Finland hopes to begin with final disposal in granite around 2020-2025.

Preparations for the disposal of high level radioactive waste began in the late 1970s.(*03) In 1985, 102 potential sites were listed and in 1987 reduced to five for further research. This resulted in detailed site investigation at four sites from 1992 on, two of them at the Loviisa and Olkiluoto nuclear power plants. For all sites an environmental impact assessment was carried out and in May 1999, Posiva Oy proposed for a permit for the disposal at Olkiluoto in the municipality of Eurajoki. Local consent was highest in Olkiluoto and Loviisa, but at Olkiluoto a larger area was reserved for the repository and a larger part of the spent fuel was already stored there.

In January 2000 the town council of Eurajoki accepted the repository, followed by approval by the government and parliament in May 2001. In Finland the same disposal concept is applied as in Sweden.(*04) The construction application will be submitted in 2012, and operating license application in 2018. Posiva Oy expects that the first cannisters will go down in 2020 and final disposal will end in 2112. Around 2120, the repository is finally closed and sealed.(*05)

Construction of an underground rock characterization facility (called Onkalo) started in 2004. This will later become (part of) the final repository.(*06)

In May 2010 it was found that the time schedule might not be met. The Finnish TV showed that there is still much research to be done before the application for the permit (scheduled end of 2012) can take place. The Director of the Research Department of Posiva Oy, Juhani Vira, stated his willingness to request the permit at a later date.(*07)

However, in the planned facility will not have enough space for the spent fuel from the already approved nuclear reactor at Pyhäjoki. In October 2011, TVO and Fortum stated that the repository could not safely be expanded to accommodate used fuel from Fennovoima's planned plant.(*08) In March 2012, Despite pressure from the government to make a deal, Posiva Oy maintains that it could not be extended any further without compromising its long-term safety.(*09)

Because Finland has the same disposal concept as Sweden, there is the same criticism on the stability of the granite and on the use of copper. Dr. Johan Swahn, Director of the Swedish NGO office for nuclear waste review, wrote in December 2009: “There is no way that anyone can honestly claim that Posiva has a completed robust safety case. The Posiva safety case has not been developed independently, but relies entirely on the Swedish safety case work. The final test of the Swedish safety case will not be done until the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority gives an approval of the safety analysis…This will not be the case before 2013-2014.” “Already now there is concern from the authority about the barrier systems of copper and clay. It is not clear if all relevant copper corrosion processes are known and the risk for clay erosion is still not understood. So an approval is not at all certain. And nothing can today be claimed to be robust."(*10)

In 2010, the Swedish geologist Nils-Axel Mörner noted that there are many horizontal and vertical fractures around the planned repository. According to Mörner the safety is therefore not proven.(*11)

Geology Professor Matti Saarnisto, former Secretary-General of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, told in June 2010 Parliament that “an exaggeratedly positive image has been presented of the integrity of the structure of Olkiluoto’s bedrock”. He warns that a honeycomb of storage sites extending over an area of several square kilometres will weaken the bedrock, making it vulnerable to earthquakes, and that during an ice age permafrost could spread deep into the rock, potentially rupturing the canisters and releasing radioactivity into the groundwater.(*12)

The matter of fact is that to some extent all of the research institutes involved are suffering from a hostage syndrome. They see it as essential that spent fuel be disposed of at Olkiluoto, because it has been planned that way for decades. There is no scientific basis for it,” Saarnisto said in 2009.(*13)


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As in almost all countries, in France, the storage of radioactive waste is controversial. Pressure groups believe the storage of high-level radioactive waste in clay, planned at Bure from 2025 at the earliest, is in violation of the legislation of the government, because there is only one underground laboratory and a 1991 law requires at least two. All spent fuel is reprocessed in La Hague. France dumped low- and intermediate level waste in sea twice, from 1967-1969.(*01)

Low-level radioactive waste was stored at the above-ground site CSM (Centre de Stockage de la Manche) from 1969 till 1994. In 1996, the government-appointed commission 'Turpin' concluded that the site also contains long-living and higher radioactive waste and that the inventory was not exactly known. The commission also found that radioactivity from the site is leaking into the environment. It however concluded that dismantling and reconditioning the waste would cost too much and might generate a significant risk to the workers involved.(*02)

ANDRA is currently operating two disposal facilities: one for short-lived low-level and intermediate-level waste (CSFMA) and the other for very-low-level waste (CSTFA), both situated in the Aube district.(*03)

The 2006 Planning Act calls for the commissioning by 2013 of a storage facility for low-level long-lived wastes. The opening of this new sub-surface (15 m to 100 m depth) facility has been seriously delayed, to at least 2019, by massive protests in the areas considered as possible sites. ANDRA launched a public call to 3,115 communities in 2008 for volunteers to host the facility. Forty-one applied for consideration and, in June 2009, the government selected two small villages both in the Aube department that already houses the two operating disposal facilities for short-lived wastes. But both communities withdrew “under the pressure of the opponents.”(*04) Currently, the project is suspended and ANDRA and the government are looking for a new approach. Pending the creation of a suitable disposal facility, existing LLW-LL waste is stored at the production sites or in facilities which have traditionally used radioactive applications.

Pending the commissioning of a deep repository, intermediate-level, long-lived waste (ILW-LL) and high-level waste is stored at their production sites, mainly La Hague, Marcoule and Cadarache.

In 1979, the French National Radioactive Waste Management Agency ANDRA was established to manage and provide storage of nuclear waste. From 1987 to 1990 field study was conducted but protest against four test drilling forced the government to stop research and develop new policy.(*05) In 1991 parliament passed the Nuclear Waste Act, which regulated the new policy. The law is meant as a legal instrument for the creation of underground research laboratories, where studies will be conducted in potential host formations, at least at two locations and a best site will be chosen in 2006. It clearly prohibits the actual storage of nuclear waste in these laboratories. For this a new law had to be adopted after 2006.(*06)

Shortly thereafter ANDRA began with research in three new locations, which met fierce resistance. The French government stopped the investigation and wanted to consult the population. The government contracted for this reference Christian Bataille, then a member of parliament and undisguised supporter of nuclear power.(*07) In his search for a department that wanted to host an underground laboratory he spoke with people from different locations, elected officials and associations, but that did not lead to a broad support. Sometimes the disposal plans caused big splits in small local communities. In 1994, this disagreement was the reason why the mayor Michel Faudry from the potential host community Chatain in the department of Vienne committed suicide.(*08)

On January 6 1994, after the consultations Bataille chose three candidate departments for the underground high-level waste laboratories: Meuse, Gard, Haute-Marne and Vienne. Whether that laboratory is converted into a HLW-repository is a choice that will be made later. If a permit for the construction of an underground lab is given, the host community receives a compensation of €10 million per year during construction and operation of the laboratory.(*09)

Local groups were very dissatisfied with the state of affairs. In December 1997, the Conseil d'Etat rejected a complaint laid down in 1994 by residents of Meuse and Vienne on the Bataille mission. They stated that there had never been a real involvement of the affected population, as required by law. With this decision the Conseil d'Etat did not follow the advice of the so-called government commissioner, who agreed with the plaintiffs.(*10) Elected officials near Bure organized a nation-wide committee of elected officials opposed to underground labs.(*11) Associations of winegrowers in several area's (Cotes-du-Rhone and Roussillon) fear that their sales market will collapse if a nuclear waste repository is constructed in their neighborhood.(*12)

In 1997, in response to the protests, the French government decided to commission the National Assessment Commission (CNE) to study retrievability.(*13) CNE, a group that reviews progress on HLW management for government and parliament, published its report 'Thoughts on retrievability' in June 1998. CNE proposes retrievable storage (for TRU waste: non-heat-generating transuranic wastes) be licensed for relatively short periods – 50 years - to ensure that a decision must be taken on a regular base on whether or not the facility should be kept open. It also recommends long-term interim storage for spent fuel on the grounds that the fuel contains valuable energy products.(*14) In August 1999, the government authorized ANDRA to start work on an underground waste lab in a clay formation in Bure and to begin the process of finding a second site in granite. The Bure license would expire at 31 December 2006 by which time the parliament has to decide whether to transform the Bure site into a repository.(*15)

In December 1998 the departments Gard en Vienne were considered unsuitable because of geological reasons. The French government okay'd the waste lab at Bure in clay, but called for a new granite site.(*16)

Before the end of 2006 the government had to find a way out of a tough situation. The Nuclear Waste Act from 1991 required that at least two research laboratories should have been established, from which - following similar research - a choice had to be made. But there is only one underground laboratory: Bure.

Many environmental groups think that the government and ANDRA therefor do not comply with the law. In a December 2009 email Markus Pflüger of the anti-nuclear group Stop Bure in Trier (Germany) emphasized that again.(*17) But he also points at the fact that geological fault lines in the subsurface of Bure are denied by ANDRA: and, according to Pflüger, these fault lines are definitely a safety risk.

In June 2006 Planning Act was published.(*18) Besides 'optimizing repository concepts' and complete experimental program with technological demonstrations, it states that all operators of nuclear installations must estimate the future costs for the management of their spent fuel, decommissioning operations and the management of radioactive waste, and must allocate “the required assets to the coverage of those provisions.”

Commercial reprocessing, although originally introduced to obtain plutonium fuel for starting up fast-neutron reactors, is now clearly established as the national policy for spent-fuel management. A disposal facility for long-lived intermediate and high-level wastes is required to be in operation by 2025. No license shall be granted, however, “if the reversibility of such a facility is not guaranteed.” While the conditions of reversibility will be defined in a subsequent law, its minimum duration is one hundred years.

The license for the underground research laboratory in Bure (officially called LSMHM URL, often Bure is not even referred to) was initially until the end of 2006, but was extended on 23 December 2006 by the Government until the end of 2011. Therefore ANDRA has filed an application to renew it until 2030. The public inquiry was held from October 26 to November 30 and the licensing decree was granted on December 20, 2011.(*19) By making retrievability compulsory and to commission longer research, the French Government is circumventing the 1991 Nuclear Waste Act.

In early 2012 ANDRA signed a six-year contract with Gaiya as main contractor to project manage the conceptual and front-end phases of the Centre Industriel de Stockage Géologique project, dubbed “Cigeo”. The first conceptual study phase is to be conducted in 2012 and will lead on to a public consultation that will take place in 2013. The storage facility will be developed on a depth of 500 meters, and will exploit the properties of the Bure clay formation as a “geologic barrier to prevent any potential spread of radioactivity”. Although Cigeo will be designed to accommodate the wastes permanently, French law requires that storage can be reversible for at least 100 years.(*20)


*01- World Nuclear Association: China's Nuclear Fuel Cycle, March 2012
*02- Hui Zhang: On China’s Commercial Reprocessing Policy, paper presented at the Institute for Nuclear Materials Management 50th Annual Meeting, Tucson, Arizona, July 12-16, 2009
*03- Nucleonics Week: EDF, AREVA Finalize Joint Ventures with Chinese Nuclear Companies, 24 December 2009
*04- People's Republic of China: National Report for Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, September, 2008, p.13
*05- World Nuclear Association, March 2012
*06- Yun Zhou: China spent fuel management and reprocessing, Working paper, March 2011
*07- Qiang Wang, China Needing a Cautious Approach to Nuclear Power Strategy, Energy Policy, Vol. 37 (2009)
*08- Nuclear Fuel: CNNC Favors Remote Site for Future Reprocessing Plant, 7 April 2008
*09- Ju Wang: High-level radioactive waste disposal in China, update 2010, Journal of Rock Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering. 2010, 2 (1): 1–11
*10- Zheng Hualing and Ye Guo’an: The Status and Prospect of Nuclear Fuel Cycle Back–End in China, paper presented at the Atalante 2000 Conference on Scientific Research on the Back-End of the Fuel Cycle for the 21st Century, October 2000. p.9
*11- People's Republic of China, September, 2008, p.34-38

Czech Republic
*01- RAWRA: Basic Information, Company website
*02- Wolfgang Neumann, Nuclear Waste Management in the EU, October 2010, p. 38-40
*03- Wolfgang Neumann, October 2010
*04- Czech Republic: National Report under the Joint Convention on Safety in Spent Fuel Management and Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, March 2011, p.90
*05 -RAWRA: Government moratorium ends; RAWRA intends to resume repository siting research, Press release 17 December 2009
*06- RAWRA: Working Group for Transparency of the Site Selection Process of a Deep Geological Repository was established in the Czech Republic, Press release 26 November 2010
*07- Czech Republic, March 2011, p.91
*08- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in Czech Republic, March 2012

*01- Nuclear Monitor, Russian import of spent fuel imports stalled, 16 July 2004
*02- Posiva Oy: company website, visited 6 April 2012
*03- Posiva Oy Selecting the Site: the Final Disposal at Olkiluoto, company website, April 2012
*04- Mark Elam en Göran Sundqvist: The Swedish KBS project: a last word in nuclear fuel safety prepares to conquer the world?, In: Journal of Risk Research, Volume 12 Issue 7 & 8 2009, December 2009, p. 969–988
*05- Posiva Oy, General Time Schedule for Final Disposal, website, April 2012
*06- NEA/OECD, Radioactive Waste Management and Decommissioning in Finland, 2011
*07- YLE (Finnish TV), 19 April 2010 and 25 May 2010.
*08- YLE: Posiva: No room for Fennovoima waste in nuclear cave, 4 October 2011
*09- World Nuclear News: No room at the repository, 9 March 2012.
*10-  Swahn quoted in: House of Commons: Memorandum submitted by the Nuclear Waste Advisory Associates to UK Parliament, January 2010
*11- Mainpost: Endlager in Bergstollen statt unter der Erde (Repository in mountain tunnels, in stead of underground), 25 February 2011
*12- YLE: Posiva: No room for Fennovoima waste in nuclear cave, 4 October 2011
*13- IceNews: Finland set to become long-term nuclear waste dump, 29 August 2009

*01- IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999
*02- Greenpeace: Nuclear Waste Management: The lesson from the CSM disposal site, 30 May 2006
*03- ANDRA: The French National Radioactive Waste Management Agency, May 2010, p.3
*04- International Panel on Fissile Materials: Managing spent fuel from nuclear reactors, 2011, p.38
*05- Yannick Barthe: Framing nuclear waste as a political issue in France, in: Journal of Risk Research, Volume 12 Issue 7 & 8 2009, p.941 – 954, December 2009.  *06- Republique Francaise: Law no.91-1318 of December 30, 1991 on Radioactive Waste Management, 30 December 1991, French version and English translation.
*07- Nuclear Fuel: French waste negotiator takes up Pilgrim's staff, 18 January 1993, p.14-15
*08- Nuclear Fuel, Citing pressure, Mayor of potential HLW laboratory site commits suicide, 31 January 1994, p 5 en 6.
*09- Nuclear Fuel: France okays work on HLW lab sites, ending four year stay, 17 January 1994, p 15-16
*10- Nuclear Fuel: French court rejects request aimed at halting search for waste labs, 29 December 1997, p.9-10
*11- Nuclear Fuel: Eastern Mayors fight to keep ANDRA from building waste labs, 22 September 1997, p.10
*12- Nucleonics Week: French localities' vote vary on nuclear waste lab siting, 24 April 1997, p. 13-14
*13- Nuclear Fuel: French government gives itself a year to decide on waste labs, 22 September 1997, p. 8-9
*14- Nuclear Fuel: French committee signals shift in approach to long-term storage, 13 July 1998, p. 11-12
*15- Nuclear Fuel: ANDRA gets license for waste lab, court challenge from Greens, 23 August 1999, p.14-15
*16- Nuclear Fuel: French ministers okay waste lab at Bure but call for new granite site, 14 December 1998, p.3-4
*17- Email Markus Pflüger to Herman Damveld, 5 December 2009.
*18- Republique Francaise: The 2006 Programme Act on the Sustainable Management of Radioactive Materials and Wastes, 28 June 2006
*19- ANDRA, ASN, CEA, IRSN: Radioactive Waste Management Programmes in OECD/NEA Countries: France, March 2012, p.16
*20- World Nuclear News, Next phase for French geological disposal, 5 January 2012