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spent fuel

SKB license application show serious shortcomings

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Joanna Widstrand

In March 2011, the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, SKB, submitted an application to build a repository for spent nuclear fuel near the nuclear power plant at Forsmark, about 160 km up the coast from Stockholm. In accordance with Swedish law the application was circulated for comment among all the institutions and organizations that have participated in the Environmental Impact Assessment consultations. Comments were to focus on perceived gaps in SKB’s environmental impact statement. The deadline for comment was 1 June 2012. 

Several parties to the consultations note serious shortcomings in the application and the environmental impact statement (EIS). They include the two national level environmental groups who have taken part in the consultations, namely, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, SSNC, with its sister organization The Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review, MKG, and Milkas, representing the Swedish Anti-Nuclear Movement and Friends of the Earth Sweden.

SKB's license application will now be processed through two parallel reviews in the Swedish legal system: one performed by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM), who will check the application’s compliance with current legislation in the radiation safety area, and the other performed by the Environmental Court, who will examine its compliance with the Environmental Code. SSM plays two parts in the pro-cess: it is a reviewing body in its own right, and it acts as a consultative body to the Environmental Court. 

The initial phase, in which the need for amendments to the application is to be analysed, is common to both SSM‘s and the Court’s review. This first step of the licensing process is important, since it represents an opportunity for input of a broad range of opinions on the application through a national consultation process. When the present consultation process is ended, the Environmental Court and the SSM will proceed to review the application for as long as they find necessary and then determine what amendments are necessary. Only when the application is complete will the authority and the court start the main review process. If the court decides that the amendments are not satisfactory, the application may be rejected.

In the main review there will be a new consultation on the issues and there will be a hearing; thereafter the court and the regulator will submit their assessments of the application to the Swedish Government. The Government will then decide the final repository’s fate, either granting a license to SKB or rejecting the company’s application, taking due account of the recommendations of SSM and the Environmental Court.

Issues concerning longterm safety
SKB’s proposed method for final disposal of spent nuclear fuel is a KBS-3 repository, the longterm safety of which relies on artificial barriers of copper and clay. The 5 meter long fuel rods are to be put in a total of 6,000 canisters made out of copper, which are to be depo-sited in shallow boreholes about 500 m down in the Forsmark bedrock. The boreholes and access tunnels are to be filled out with bentonite clay with the intention to keep the spent nuclear fuel encapsulated and separated from the biosphere for as long as the contents pose a hazard – in essence, for all time to come. The bentonite clay is supposed to protect the copper canisters from contact with groundwaterleading fissures in the surrounding bedrock. The main function of the clay is for it to swell when in contact with water, pretty much like cat litter does. Once saturated, it is expected to keep the canisters and the spent fuel shielded from their surroundings. SKB assures us that everything will be fine.

However, the organizations who participated in the EIA consultation process are of a different opinion. Particularly critical are, besides environmental organizations, the Swedish Environmental Agency, the municipalities of Östhammar and Oskarshamn, the Royal Institute of Technology, and Lund University. 

The main critique presented in the SSNC’s and MKG’s consultation document is that the company’s application does not contain scientific evidence to support the claims for longterm safety of the repository. Copper corrosion, for example, is a problem that has not been sufficiently investigated by the company. In order for the bentonite clay to function as the intended isolator in the repository, a specific amount of water – not too much, not too little – needs to be present in the bedrock so that the bentonite will start swelling. If the clay does not get activated, which is a possible scenario in the relatively dry Forsmark bedrock, there is an imminent risk that the clay will be affected by the heat and radioactivity coming from the canisters and possibly erode. Given an eroded buffer, the canisters would be exposed to water seeping into the repository, which may corrode the copper canisters. The interplay between the copper and clay in a repository environment is another area that requires further investigation. In sum: It is not  acceptable to build a repository that is supposed to be safe and protect humans and the environment from radioactive waste/pollution/toxicity for over 100,000 years, when so much research on such key issues is still lacking.

Milkas seconds the criticisms put forward by the SSNC and MKG. In addition, Milkas raises issues relating to the geological characteristics of the chosen site. A coastal site like that at Forsmark implies the risk that ground-water will readily spread any leakage from the repository into the Baltic Sea. In the longer term there is the problem of coming ice ages. The repository is to be installed in a tectonic lens – a body of crystalline granite in the midst of a shearing zone. Whereas the zone is stable at present, it may very likely be reactivated under the strains associated with glaciation. On the whole, SKB tends consistently to underestimate the seismic effects of glaciation. The installation of the repository in the lens, in itself, may impair the integrity of the lens, in which case the whole repository is at risk – perhaps even a good deal earlier than the next ice age.

Other concerns include an apparent inability on the part of the applicant to elaborate scenarios that challenge the success of the repository project. Both the Government and the regulatory body have pointed to this bias and called for such scenarios. None has been forthcoming. As a result, we are left to rely on assurances.

A good share of Milkas comments, addressed specifically to the Environmental Court, concerns procedural as well as substantive shortcomings in the EIA process and the EIS in relation to the requirements of the Environmental Code. In Milkas’ view, the applicant has effectively subverted the dialogic method that the Code envisages to ensure allround evaluation of major projects’ environmental consequences.

What next?
SSM's comments on the need for amendments are to be handed in to the Environmental Court by November 1. At the same time the Swedish Council for Nuclear Waste, a consultatory scientific board to the Swedish Government, will give their view. After that, correspondence between SKB and the various organizations who participated in the consultation process will take place in order to discuss the additional work to be required of the company. The Court’s determination on the issue of amendments is expected at the end of 2013, at the earliest. The story continues…

Source and contact: Joanna Widstrand, former project assistant at MKG, the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review.
Tel: +4631-711 00 92
Email: jo.widstrand[at]

WISE Sweden

Fukushima spent fuel pool unit 4

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Recently, former diplomats and experts both in Japan and abroad stressed the extremely risky condition of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool and this is being widely reported by world media. On May 1, 72 Japanese organizations urgently ask U.N. to step in and help stabilize Fukushima Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool.

Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), who is one of the best-known experts on spent nuclear fuel, stated that in Unit 4 there is spent nuclear fuel which contains Cesium-137 (Cs-137) that is equivalent to 10 times the amount that was released at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Thus, if an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain, this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cs-137 released by the Chernobyl accident.

Nearly all of the 10,893 spent fuel assemblies at the Fukushima Daiichi plant sit in pools vulnerable to future earthquakes, with roughly 85 times more long-lived radioactivity than released at Chernobyl.

Nuclear experts from the US and Japan such as Arnie Gundersen, Robert Alvarez, Hiroaki Koide, Masashi Goto, and Mitsuhei Murata, a former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland, and, Akio Matsumura, a former UN diplomat, have continually warned against the high risk of the Fukushima Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool.

US Senator Roy Wyden, after his visit to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on 6 April, 2012, issued a press release on 16 April, pointing out the catastrophic risk of Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4, calling for urgent US government intervention. Senator Wyden also sent a letter to Ichiro Fujisaki, Japan’s Ambassador to the United States, requesting Japan to accept international assistance to tackle the crisis.

We Japanese civil organizations express our deepest concern that our government does not inform its citizens about the extent of risk of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool. Given the fact that collapse of this pool could potentially lead to catastrophic consequences with worldwide implications, what the Japanese government should be doing as a responsible member of the international community is to avoid any further disaster by mobilizing all the wisdom and the means available in order to stabilize this spent nuclear fuel. It is clearly evident that Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool is no longer a Japanese issue but an international issue with potentially serious consequences. Therefore, it is imperative for the Japanese government and the international community to work together on this crisis before it becomes too late. We are appealing to the United Nations to help Japan and the planet in order to prevent the irreversible consequences of a catastrophe that could affect generations to come. We herewith make our urgent request to you as follows:

1. The United Nations should organize a Nuclear Security Summit to take up the crucial problem of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool.

2. The United Nations should establish an independent assessment team on Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 and coordinate international assistance in order to stabilize the unit’s spent nuclear fuel and prevent radiological consequences with potentially catastrophic consequences.

The situation at the spent fuel pool of unit 4 is a crisis for which there is no simple, risk free solution. Removing the spent fuel rods is a priority, but it will not be achieved (or even attempted) before 2013 or later. Securing the structure of the pool at Unit 4 was identified early on in the crisis, with support columns installed. But the survivability of these columns, if struck by a major seismic event, must be doubted. A decision to build a new structure around the plant with heavy lift cranes is only the start of a long process that risks failure at numerous corners. All through this period and before the spent fuel is unloaded and put in secure casks the possibility will persist of loss of cooling water leading to an exothermic reaction that would lead to the release of a vast inventory of radioactive cesium and other radionuclides. The 50 mile evacuation zone recommended for U.S. citizens in the months after the Fukushima accident began would not be sufficient to protect Japan, including Metropolitan Tokyo, from potential devastation as a society. That was the information conveyed to Prime Minister Kan more than one year ago – and it remains the nightmare today.

Source: Shaun Burnie, Matsumura Akio and Murata Mitsuhei, "The Highest Risk: Problems of Radiation at Reaction Unit 4, Fukushima Daiichi," 

The Asia- Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 17, No. 4.

Source and contact: Green Action (Japan). Suite 103, 22-75 Tanaka Sekiden-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8203 Japan
Tel: +81-75-701-7223
Email: info[at]


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

Rep. of Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands

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

Korea, Republic of

Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 




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)


Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 




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)


Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 




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)


Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 




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)


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#746, 747, 748
Waste special
„Taking into account the results already achieved, the expected technological developments in the coming years, and above all the existence of a well-established basis for the assessment in numerical terms of radiation hazards, the group are convinced that the optimum development of nuclear energy need not be impeded by radioactive waste management problems which will have to be dealt with".

This quote is from the OECD report  „Radioactive waste management practices in Western Europe". It is not from the most recent report, although the wording would be the same, but from a report in 1972!

Since the beginning of nuclear power the major claim is that there will be a solution for  nuclear waste soon, that the waste problem really is not a technical problem but a social problem, but, anyway, we are near a solution. So there is no reason to stop producing it or endanger the future of nuclear energy.

But as the authors describe in this worldwide overview, non of the roughly 34 countries with spent fuel (reprocessed or not) from nuclear power reactors have a final disposal facility, be it in deep geological formations or (near) surface. A very large majority of those countries are not even close. Some postpone the need for final disposal by long term interim storage of up to 100 years; and other countries use (the future option of) reprocessing as an alibi for postponing that decision.

As this worldwide overview of the state of affairs shows, siting radioactive waste repositories is seen as one of the main problems due to socio-political circumstances. Almost without exception, all radioactive waste management programs state that this generation must solve its own problems and not lay the burden of solving the waste problem on the next generations. But those same programs propose, again almost without exception, to postpone a decision on final disposal and/or reprocessing into the far-future, and consider interim storage.

Fact is that the problem of final disposal of high-level radioactive waste and/or spent fuel has not been solved, more than half a century after the first commercial nuclear power plants entered into operation and used fuel was unloaded from the reactors.

Although we briefly describe the storage and disposal of low and intermediate level waste, the focus of this report is clearly on spent (or 'used') fuel from nuclear power plants. Waste from uranium mining is not even mentioned. It is also not about fuel from research reactors, which is mostly returned to the country of origin.

Because the limitations of the number of pages of the Nuclear Monitor, this is only a brief overview of the state of affairs, but some important historic developments are covered.

We have included many references, which should make it easier to search for more information. We did not include the url's of the references, because they tend to change frequently (and not much so annoying as dead links). Instead, we described the source as best as we could. Therefore it should be relatively easy to find it on the internet when the description is copied in a search engine. Of course, not all information used is available online. If there are questions about a reference (or something else), please do not hesitate to contact us.

Tabel 1:
Final disposal repository for HLW or SF; expected start of disposal.


… in 1989

… in 1996

… in 2012
























Czech Republic

































Korea, Rep. of



















Russian Federation



Slovak Republic






South Africa




















United Kingdom




United States





The review process in Sweden for management of spent nuclear fuel

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

On 16 March 2011 the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB) ( submitted applications to build a final storage facility for spent nuclear fuel, called KBS-3, at Forsmark. This is the only public review process in the world for dealing with a spent fuel management proposal submitted for legal review by the nuclear industry. Comments from anyone anywhere in the world may be submitted to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and the Environmental Court.

Two applications KBS-3 at Forsmark were made by SKB: one to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM)  according to the Nuclear Activities Act and one to the Environmental Court according to the Environmental Code. The applications are together about 9,000 pages of which about 2,000 pages are the same. Some of all this material is in English and some in Swedish. The volume has been growing steadily as translations have been made between the two languages, errata submitted and numerous associated documents added.

Further, in April 2010 the Swedish Government requested a review by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD NEA). The review is administered by SSM. The OECD NEA appointed a 10 member international review team that began working in May 2011, with Michael Sailer from the Öko-Institut in Germany as Chairman.

The Environmental Court and SSM have only published the respective application submitted to them on their respective websites. Both applications are published on SKB’s website. However, it is only the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review (MKG) that has published both applications as well as all associated documents for both applications on their website. The Environmental Court and SSM, with one exception, only publish an index of documents associated with the respective application that they received – not the full documents as MKG does. The exception is the documents for the OECD NEA review, which SSM is publishing. However, both the Environmental Court and SSM will provide printed documents on request for a fee and some documents by e-mail at no charge.

The first stage in the review processes of both the Environmental Court and SSM is examination of completeness of the respective application submitted. The Environmental Court has requested “comments regarding the need for any supplementary information.” SSM requests comments on “the quality of the application, e.g. whether or not there are deficiencies in the documentation.”

The current deadlines for comments regarding needs for additional information are 1 June 2012 for public comments to SSM and 16 April 2012 to the Environmental Court for everyone except the Municipalities of Oskarshamn and Östhammar, which have until 1 June 2012 (the same deadline given to everyone by SSM). SSM is a main consultation body for the Environmental Court and has been given until 1 November 2012 to submit its comments. The Swedish National Council for Nuclear Waste, a committee under the Ministry of the Environment, has also until 1 November 2012.

After any required additional information is incorporated, the Environmental Court currently expects to release the revised application for public comment at the end of 2013, and hold a “main hearing” in the early fall of 2014. The “main hearing” is for oral presentations and is open for the public to make pre-registered submissions and to attend.

This schedule assumes the unlikely occurrence that SKB will be able to comply with requests for additional information within only a few months.

The OECD NEA review is scheduled to be completed by June 2012. The review team has not solicited comments from the public though SSM forwards comments from interested parties to the review team. The OECD NEA International Review Team held hearings of SKB in Stockholm 12, 13 and 15 December 2011 and commented on preliminary findings on 16 December 2011, when a 15 minute question session with the team Chairman was allowed. SSM invited a limited number of observers to participate in these sessions, including representatives from the three environmental groups (Milkas, MKG and SERO) that receive funding from the Nuclear Waste Fund to participate in the overall review process. All the sessions were webcast (see below).

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has responsibility regarding the Espoo Convention to circulate SKB’s revised application according to the Environmental Code (i.e. earliest at the end of 2013).

Contact Information
* Milkas coverage of the review process:
* Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review (MKG),
* Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM), comments should be sent to in order to be entered into SSM’s index system.
* Information on the OECD NEA review is at: The page is in Swedish but all the attached files are in English, which are at
* The webcast archive of the sessions 12, 13, 15 and 16 December 2011 can be found via:
* The OECD NEA International Review Team Chairman Michael Sailer:,
* The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency,

Nacka District Court, Land and Environmental Court, Comments should be sent to in order to be entered into the Environmental Court’s index system.

Source and Contact: Miles Goldstick, Miljörörelsens kärnavfallssekretariat, Milkas (The Swedish Environmental Movement’s Nuclear Waste Secretariat). Tegelviksgatan 40, 116 41, 116 41 Stockholm, Sweden.
Tel. +46-8-559 22 382
Mail: info[at] 

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Belgian phase-out: oldest 3 reactors to close in 2015.
Belgian's political parties have reached a conditional agreement to phase nuclear power by 2025, if they can find an adequate supply of energy from alternative sources by that time. Belgium currently has seven nuclear reactors at two sites, four at Doel in the north, and three at Tihange in the south. The three oldest reactors are set to be shut down by 2015, with the rest taken off the grid by 2025. The agreement confirms a decision taken in 2003, which was shelved during Belgium's political stalemate. The country has been without a federal government for 18 months, after coalition talks repeatedly failed following the elections in April 2010. Belgian's power stations are operated by Electrabel, which is part of French GDF-Suez. The company's share price fell nearly 5 percent on Monday.

Although Belgium had long planned its nuclear exit, public hostility to nuclear power has grown since Japan's nuclear disaster at Fukushima earlier this year.  Belgium will now negotiate with investors to see how it can find new capacity to replace the 5,860 MW that will be lost if the nuclear phase-out goes ahead.
Deutsche Welle, 31 October 2011

EDF delays construction start in UK.
In Nuclear Monitor 735 (October 21, 2011) we published an article called: 'UK nuclear program: companies reconsider investments', in which it was analyzed that even EDF must be having second thoughts about investing in new build in the UK, although (Electricite de France) is the only company that did not express doubts about investing in new nuclear in UK. E.On, RWE, Centrica and SSE (which cancelled investments) all have second thoughts and started internal review processes.

But on October 28, a few days after the publication, EDF decided to delay the construction of the four planned nuclear reactors in the UK, confirming a report from the French Les Echos newspaper. According to the EDF spokeswoman, EDF is taking time to evaluate the consequences of delays at a reactor under construction in Flamanville and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. EDF will release a new calendar for the project during the fall, she said. EDF was planning to start building the first of the planned nuclear rectors in 2013, the newspaper said.

(to be continued…), 28 October 2011

Mexico: natural gas cheaper than nuclear.
Mexico, Latin America’s second-largest economy and one of three Latin American nations that uses nuclear power (the other two being Brazil and Argentina), is abandoning plans to build as many as 10 new reactors and will focus on natural gas-fired electricity plants after boosting discoveries of the fuel. Mexico considered a plan to build as many as 10 nuclear power plants by 2028, according to a CFE presentation. The state company was weighing four investment plans to increase long-term capacity, the most ambitious nuclear plan included building 10 nuclear plants, according to the May 12, 2010 presentation.

The country is “changing all its decisions, amid the very abundant existence of natural-gas deposits,” newly appointed Energy Minister Jordy Herrera said in a November 1 interview. Mexico will seek private investment of about US$10 billion during five years to expand its natural gas pipeline network, he said.

Mexico’s energy ministry plans to update the nation’s long- term strategic plan to reflect the increased importance of gas, Herrera said, with the report due in the first quarter of 2012.

“Until we find a model to make renewable energy more profitable, gas is more convenient,” Herrera said. “The country has very high potential to develop renewable energy,” Herrera added. “But the renewable energy world is hurt by the cheap gas prices. And the government has to consider how much it can spend to promote alternative energy sources.”, 3 November 2011

New IPFM-report on managing spent fuel.
The International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) releases new report: "Managing Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors: Experience and Lessons from Around the World". The report provides an overview of the policy and technical challenges faced by efforts at long-term storage and disposal of spent fuel from nuclear power reactors over the past five decades. It analyzes the efforts to manage and dispose of spent fuel by ten countries that account for more than 80 percent of the world's nuclear power capacity: Canada, Finland, France, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The new report also provides an overview of the technical issues relating to interim storage and transport of spent fuel, geological repositories, and the challenge of the associated international safeguards. The spent fuel from nuclear power reactors, and the high-level wastes produced in the few countries where spent fuel is reprocessed to separate plutonium, must be stored in a manner that will minimize releases of the contained radioactivity into the environment for up to a million years. Safeguards will be required to ensure that any contained plutonium is not diverted to nuclear-weapon use.
A PDF version of the report is available at

2011 edition of Nukespeak published.
On October 4, 2011, Sierra Club Books published the 30th anniversary edition of Nukespeak: The Selling of Nuclear Technology from the Manhattan Project to Fukushima exclusively in e-book format. First published in 1982 in the wake of the first great nuclear plant accident at Three Mile Island, the original edition, written by Stephen Hilgartner, Richard C. Bell, and Rory O’Connor, examined the turbulent history of the nuclear industry, documenting the extraordinary public relations campaign that developers undertook to sell nuclear technology.

Nukespeak is the language of the nuclear mindset — the worldview or system of beliefs of nuclear developers and enthusiasts. The word “Nukespeak” is a  tribute to George Orwell, who in his novel 1984, used the term “Newspeak” as the name of the language of Big Brother and the totalitarian state. Unlike a living language, the state was constantly removing words from common usage, with the ultimate goal to make it (literally) impossible for a citizen to think a seditious thought.

The new 2011 edition, updated by original authors Richard C. Bell and Rory O’Connor, brings the book fully up-to-date, exploring the critical events of the last three decades—including the disaster at Chernobyl, the campaign to re-brand nuclear energy as a “clean, green” solution to global warming, and the still unfolding disaster at Japan’s Fukushima power plant. In addition, the authors argue persuasively that a language of euphemism and distraction continues to dominate public debate about nuclear weapons and nuclear power around the world.
The book can be purchased online at: Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble

Radioactive and toxic mine dumps threaten Johannesburg. The 380 mine dumps and slimes dams in the the South African province Gauteng are causing radioactive dust fallout, toxic water pollution and soil contamination, according to the final draft of a new report by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) on mine residue areas (MRAs). The report was completed in July but is yet to be released. The report warns that if the province doesn’t act, it's capital “Johannesburg will eventually be seen as an old mining town that has reached the end of its working life”, with banks refusing to finance any homes or development near the dumps. Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa by population and the world's largest city not situated on a river, lake, or coastline.

The report found that most MRAs – including mine dumps, waste rocks dumps and water storage facilities – in Gauteng are radioactive “because the Witwatersrand gold-bearing ores contain almost 10 times the amount of uranium in gold. “These radioactive tailings co-exist in these MRAs alongside the iron sulphide mineral pyrite, which reacts in the presence of oxygen and water to form a sulphuric acid solution – the main cause of acid mine drainage,” says the report, Feasibility Study on Reclamation of Mine Residue Areas for Development Purposes: Phase II Strategy and Implementation Plan. But it says that the broader issue of “diffuse sources” of pollution represented by the mine dumps and slimes dams and their possible interactions with rainfall, seepage, surface water runoff and shallow groundwater “is possibly more important than the impact of acid mine drainage in Gauteng.

In February, the Saturday Star revealed how the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) had recommended the relocation of residents of Tudor Shaft informal settlement, on an old radioactive mine dump, in Krugersdorp. The report suggests that this NNR ruling is “likely to become a watershed ruling likely to be relevant for a number of other sites” and that high-risk informal settlements will need to be relocated to minimise human health risks.
Saturday Star (South Africa), 5 November 2011

No international spent fuel storage in Mongolia!

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

The Mongolian government told Japan government officials and others concerned in late September that it had decided to abandon its plans to cooperate with Japan and the US and build facilities to store and dispose of spent fuel, it was learned on October 14. Mongolia appears to have judged the plan unfeasible because of opposition movements in the country.

Negotiations on the Mongolian nuclear projects started when US Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel B. Poneman visited Mongolia in September, 2010. Officials of Japan, the United States and Mongolia held their first round of talks on the projects in Washington in February this year. Then, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which wants to procure nuclear fuel from Mongolia, joined in the negotiations. In early July, Poneman sent a draft of an intergovernmental memorandum of understanding (MOU) to then-Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda in an effort to secure a deal by the end of this year.

The Japanese daily Mainichi reported on the secret talks between the three countries in May, but the Mongolian government has officially denied the existence of such negotiations. After the Mainichi's report, Mongolian citizens harshly reacted to the envisioned projects and demanded the government withdraw the plans and disclose information.

Following such developments, Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj issued a presidential order on September 13 banning negotiating with foreign governments or international organizations such as the IAEA on nuclear waste storage plans in Mongolia and fired  government officials who had attended trilateral talks with the United States and Japan in Washington from February 3 to 4 as representatives of Mongolia.

It seems that the Mongolian government was considering processing uranium into nuclear fuel and exporting it in an attempt to make "good use" of the uranium resources. For this purpose, Mongolia was exploring the idea of introducing "nuclear fuel lease contracts" in which Mongolia would receive spent nuclear fuel from countries that buy uranium nuclear fuel from Mongolia. The US Department of Energy took the idea and came up with a proposal that Mongolia collect, store and dispose of spent nuclear fuel from other countries. Since then, the United States and Japan had been negotiating with Mongolia on the project. Public opposition against the international waste storage plans was large. When US vice-president Joe Biden, visited Ulaanbataar in August this year, several demonstrations organised by many groups like the Green Coalition and the Khmalag Mongol Movement took place.

When in the mid 1980's China developed plans to store spent fuel from abroad in the Gobi desert, Mongolia protested sharply, citing serious risks of contamination of Mongolian as well as Chinese territory, through seepage of radioactive material in the groundwater. In 1990 public opposition and grassroots activism was aimed at the Russian uranium mine Mardai in northeast Mongolia, near the Siberian border. The Russian mine was seen by many as the symbol of 60 years of Soviet neo-colonialism.

Sources: Mainichi (Japan), 15 October 2011 / Mongolia-web, 20 August 2011 / Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden), 28 March 1990 / Nature, 14 June 1984 
'No to spent nuclear waste in Mongolia' on Facebook:



Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 15, 2006) The French government announced on November 24, an agreement with the Italian government on the transport of Italian highly radioactive nuclear waste to the French reprocessing plant at La Hague, where weapons-usable plutonium will be extracted. Italy will use France as a nuclear dump site because it has no storage facilities to take back the reprocessing waste.

(650.5774) Laka Foundation - The Italian nuclear waste was generated in its nuclear power plants, the last of which was closed in 1990, following the referendum of 1987, one year after the Chernobyl accident. In total, some 235 tonnes of so-called spent nuclear fuel are stored in Italy. The Italian government now intends to dispose off the waste by sending it to France, which has already received thousands of tonnes of such waste from Germany, Japan, Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland.

The purpose of the framework agreement which was signed is to commit the Italian government to take back the large volumes of wastes generated by reprocessing between 2020 and 2025, thereby allowing Italy to use La Hague for interim storage of its waste. But Italy might not be able to honour this future commitment because Italy has no clear plans to build facilities to store reprocessing wastes,. In November 2003 a site at Scanzano (southern Italy) is chosen for the construction of a nuclear waste dump but in December 2003 the Italian government cancels the plan after massive public opposition. Any future contract signed between the Italian waste company SOGIN and the French reprocessing company Areva therefore threatens to become a de-facto dumping contract.

An important issue is that under the new France waste law, storing the Italian waste till 2025 is not illegal any more. In the 1994 law, it was required to return the reprocessing wastes as soon as technically feasible, which is clearly before 2025. Now, under the new law its simply said that there needs to be a bilateral agreement in which the government sending the spent fuel commits to take back the waste within the timeframe which is agreed. That's much weaker of course. Thus this is a very crucial agreement, the first after the new law came into force and it immediately proves to what extent the new law weakens the old one. Greenpeace France obtained major legal victories using the old law. Reaction of this right-wing France government: just change the law to allow France to remain an international dump site.

The 235 tonnes of Italian fuel has to be handed over from the beginning of 2007 to half-way through 2012. The waste will then be returned to Italy from January 2020 to December 2025. Italy will begin work on selecting a site for a geologic repository for the waste in 2009, with the final site selection being made in 2012.

In 1980 Italy signed a reprocessing contract with BNFL (UK) for 53 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel from the Garigliano reactor. The first transport took place 23 year later, in April 2003, and the thirteenth and last in February 2005 (and was blocked by Greenpeace).

Sources: WNA News Briefing, 22-26 November 2006 / Greenpeace France, Press release, 25 November 2006 /
Contact: Greenpeace France, Yannick Rousselet, 22, rue des Rasselins, 75020 Paris, France.