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Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#746, 747, 748


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The National Nuclear Energy Commission (Comissão Nacional de Energia Nuclear, CNEN) is responsible for management and disposal of radioactive wastes. Legislation in 2001 provides for repository site selection, construction and operation for low- and intermediate-level wastes. A long-term solution for these is to be in place before Angra 3 is commissioned. Low and intermediate level waste is stored on site of Angra nuclear complex and on other sites where it is produced.(*01)

A location for a national waste repository for llw and ilw waste is due to be chosen in 2011 (but delayed again) (*02) and planned to start operation in 2018. Two options are being considered: the construction of a repository exclusively for waste from Angra or a facility that would accept material from all nuclear and radioactive installations in Brazil. (*03)  Used fuel is stored at Angra pending formulation of policy on reprocessing or direct disposal. (*04)

HLW disposal: when, where and how unknown
Currently, there is no decision about the way of final storage of the waste. Brazil has not defined a technical solution for spent fuel or high-level waste disposal. Spent fuel is not considered radioactive waste. Therefore, the policy adopted with regards to spent fuel is to keep the fuel in safe storage until an international consensus and a national decision is reached about reprocessing and recycling the fuel, or disposing of it as such.(*05)

High-level wastes, after been stored on site would then be moved to an interim storage location for 500 years. This interim site is expected to begin operation in 2026; a proposed plan was due to be finished by 2009, and a prototype validated by 2013, according to Eletronuclear.(*06) For final disposal a deep geological facility has been foreseen, but a timeframe has not been developed.(*07)

Opposition to nuclear power and waste storage is strong in Brazil. Even CNEN admits that "political and psycho social aspects related to the subject of radioactive waste disposal (“Not in my backyard syndrome”) contribute enormously to the difficulties faced by the Brazilian Government in the establishment of a national waste management policy." (*08)


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The State Enterprise Radioactive Wastes (SE-RAW) is responsible for much of the waste management. On October 25 2011, a contract was signed drafting technical aspects and safety analysis for a low- and intermediate level waste interim storage facility near Kozloduy. A tender is expected mid 2012 and the facility is planned to go into operation in 2015. (*01) In 2009, a search for a location of a near-surface repository for low and intermediate level waste has been started. Four locations are taken into account.(*02)

Keep options open
In 1988, spent fuel from VVER-440 units (Kozloduy 1-4) was returned for the last time to Russia under the old contract conditions (free of charge), since then it is transferred to the wet spent fuel storage facility (WSFSF) for temporary storage, awaiting transfer to Russia or interim storage. WSFSF is in operation since 1990 on site at Kozloduy to take fuel from all the units. It is a standalone facility and is used as interim storage. Currently spent fuel is regularly transported to Russia under contracts signed in 1998 and 2002.(*03)

Under a 2002 agreement, Bulgaria has been paying Russia US$ 620,000 per ton used fuel for reprocessing in the Mayak plant at Ozersk, though some has also been sent to the Zheleznogorsk plant at Krasnoyarsk.(*04)

In March 2011 a dry spent fuel storage facility (DSFSF) construction was finished. At the DSFSF the fuel from the closed units 1-4 (VVER-440) should be stored for a period of 50 years. In July 2011 an application for commissioning was submitted and is currently under review. (*05)

The dry spent fuel depot will allow the country to store spent nuclear fuel for the long term in case it is unable to ship it abroad, its radioactive waste strategy said. Bulgaria is to decide by 2013 whether to build a deep-burying waste dump.(*06)

The principles of radioactive waste and spent fuel management were declared in the national Strategy for Spent Nuclear Fuel and Radioactive Waste Management, 2004, later confirmed and developed further in the Strategy for Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Management until 2030, adopted by the Council of Ministers in January 2011. It states that, accounting for the global and general European consensus for deep geological repository, this is presumably the most suitable option.

The SE-RAW implements activities related to the preliminary study of the possibilities for construction of deep geological repository. As a result from these activities a preliminary zoning of the country is made and three regions of interest are identified. In those regions 5 potential areas are localized and for every of the perspective areas an analysis of the geology-tectonic, geo-morphologic, neo tectonic, seismic, hydro-geological and engineer-geological and sociological economical characteristics is performed. On this base 6 potential geological blocks are localised, that can be additionally investigated. The potential host media are thick clay mergels and granites. (*07)


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The plans for storage of nuclear waste has not yet led to a choice for a location. In 2009, a new dialogue process began with the population. It is anticipated that an underground disposal facility will not be in operation before 2035. Meanwhile, all spent fuel is stored at reactor site in pools and dry storage.

Public debate
In Canada the search for a repository for nuclear waste has taken place since at least 1977.(*01) It is standing policy that the local population should accept the storage. In 1992, the government proposed that in addition to technical issues, also ethical and societal issues must be recognized in the debate on nuclear waste storage.(*02) As departure points for a siting process it was further accepted that the population has to think the chosen procedure is honest, it should have access to all information and the population should have the opportunity to really influence the choice of location.(*03) This discussion model had the consent of both "proponents" and "opponents" of storage and should make a meaningful discussion about the pros and cons of  disposal of nuclear waste possible.(*04)

Low-level radioactive waste
The public debate about low-level radioactive waste started in 1988.(*05) 850 town councils were asked whether they would be interested, of which 21 responded positively. In these 21 towns a referendum was held, and only three voted in favor of it.(*06) But in 1994, Deep River in Ontario was the only municipality to respond to the government's program to find a community willing to accept the low-level waste. At a referendum in September 1995 a large majority of the population voted in favor of storage of low-level radioactive waste, if the government would give job guarantees for 2,300 people at the local Chalk River nuclear research center for 15 years. (*07)

However, funding negotiations for job guarantees broke down in January 1997 (*08) and in early 1998, the Canadian government announced it had no success completing the deal. As a result, the option of storage of low-level radioactive waste at Deep River is off. (*09)

High-level radioactive waste
With the disposal of spent fuel elements from nuclear power plants the Canadian government has also not made any progress.(*10) Awaiting final disposal of high level waste, all spent fuel is stored at reactor site in pools and dry storage.(*11)

In August 1977, the Federal Department of Energy, Mines and Resources released a report which became known as the Hare report, after its Chairman F. K. Hare. It recommended burying the spent fuel at depths of 800 to 1000 meters in the Canadian Shield, a large area of ancient igneous rock in eastern and central Canada and called for an “effective interchange of information and ideas” among the public, industry, and government.(*12) Ten years later, in 1988, the concept of a storage mine, which had become known as the AECL-concept, was referred for a full–scale environmental review. Estimated costs in 1991 was between 8.7 and 13.3 billion in 1991 Canadian dollars.(*13)

The Environmental Assessment Panel held hearings in the 1990s and in March 1998 it's  report was published. The main conclusion was that there is no public support and that many ethical questions are still open: Broad public support is necessary to ensure the acceptability of a concept for managing nuclear fuel wastes; Safety is a key part, but only one part, of acceptability. Safety must be viewed from two complementary perspectives: technical and social; From a technical perspective, the safety of the AECL concept had been on balance adequately demonstrated for a conceptual stage of development, but from a social perspective, it had not; the concept for deep geological disposal did not have the required level of acceptability.(*14) The committee recommended to work on the social and ethical issues first, and, for the time being, not to search for a concrete repository.(*15) In a March 13,1998, statement the Canadian government announced  that, while "the safety of the concept has been adequately demonstrated (…) it does not have broad public support, nor the required level of acceptability to be adopted" and that it will not proceed with siting efforts for a deep geological disposal. (*16)

Four years later, in 2002, the Canadian government created a new organization for the storage of nuclear waste: the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO). This organization is paid for by the operators of the 22 nuclear power plants in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. Instead of an organization independent from the operators of nuclear plants, now operators will have the say. Therefore  Greenpeace Canada, for instance, wondered to what extent the NWMO will really involve the population in decision making.
The NWMO has held hearings from 2002 to 2005. In May 2009, it initiated a nation-wide dialogue with interested organizations and individuals to establish a procedure for selecting a site.(*17) The dialogue lasted until early 2010, after which the NWMO began with the search for a final repository on 4 June 2010. According to the NWMO it is about an underground disposal facility at 500 meters depth in a rock formation, located in an informed and willing community, securing economic benefits for the residents and to "build confidence that the program is being carried out fairly and the end result will be safe."(*18) According to a November 13, 2009 NWMO-document, the geological facility for disposal of spent fuel will not come into operation before 2035, at the earliest.(*19)

Sofar (January 2012) nine communities, scattered across Saskatchewan and Ontario, have volunteered to host the country's spent fuel. The towns are a combination of native reserves, old mining and lumber towns and cottage enclaves. Many have spent the past decade watching their populations shrink and economies crater, and are desperate for an economic boost - even if it is deep geological disposal of nuclear waste for eternity.(*20)


*01- IAEA, Brazil country report: 2006
*02- we can find no information that suggests a location has been chosen –March 2012
*03- Nuclear Engineering International: Nuclear power in Brazil, 1 June 2010
*04- World Nuclear Association, Nuclear Power in Brazil, November 2011
*05- CNEN: National report of Brazil 2011, for the fourth review meeting of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, October 2011
*06- Nuclear Engineering International
*07- CNEN, 2011
*08- CNEN, National report of Brazil 2008, for the third review meeting of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, October 2008

*01- Sofia Echo: Bulgaria selects consultant for radioactive waste depot, 26 October 2011
*02- Wolfgang Neumann: Nuclear Waste Management in the EU, October 2010, p 35
*03- Republic of Bulgaria: Fourth national report on fulfillment of the obligations on the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, October 2011, p.8-9
*04- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in Bulgaria, March 2012
*05- Republic of Bulgaria, October 2011, p.49
*06- Reuters: Bulgaria opens dry spent nuclear fuel depot, 12 May 2011
*05- Republic of Bulgaria, October 2011, p.52, 75

*01- M.A. Greber, E.R. Frech and J.A. Hillier: The Disposal of Canada's Nuclear Fuel Waste: Public Involvement and Social Aspects, AECL Research, Whiteshell Laboratories, Pinawa, Manitoba, July 1994 (AECL-10712 COG-93-2); this report of 260 pages contains a detailed description of the debate in Canada until mid-1994
*02- C.J. Allan and M.A. Greber: Social and Ethical Issues Surrounding the Disposal of Nuclear Fuel Waste - A Canadian Perspective, AECL Research, Whiteshell Laboratories, Pinawa, Manitoba, 1995 (Technical Record TR-705 COG-95-405)
*03- Fred Roots: Radioactive Waste Disposal - Ethical and Environmental Considerations - A Canadian Perspective, in: Nuclear Energy Agency: Environmental and ethical aspects of long-lived radioactive waste disposal, Proceedings of an International Workshop organized by the Nuclear Energy Agency in co-operation with the Environment Directorate, Paris, 1-2 September 1994, p 71-93
*04- Kevin R. Ballard and Richard G. Kuhn: Developing and Testing a Facility Location Model for Canadian Nuclear Fuel Waste, in: Risk Analysis, Vol. 16, No. 6, 1996, p 821-832
*05- Robert Morrison and Peter Brown: Radioactive Waste Manage­ ment in Canada, Proceeding of the Uranium Institute Annual Symposium 1991,  September 1991, London, 1992
*06-  PJ Richardson: A Review of Benefits Offered to Volunteer Communities for Siting Nuclear Waste Facilities, prepared for Dr. Olof Soderberg, Swedish National Co-ordinator for Nuclear Waste Disposal, March 1998, p 4
*07- Nucleonics Week, 28 September 1995, p 3 en 4
*08- Nucleonics Week, 9 January 1997, p 4 en 5
*09- Nucleonics Week, 22 January 1998, p 9
*10- Darrin Durant: Radwaste in Canada: a political economy of uncertainty, In: Journal of Risk Research, Volume 12, Issue 7 & 8, December 2009, p. 897 – 919.
*11- International Panel on Fissile Materials: Managing Spent Fuel From Nuclear Power Reactors, September 2011
*12- A. M. Aikin, J. M. Harrison, and F. K. Hare, The Management of Canada’s Nuclear Wastes, Report of a Study Prepared under Contract for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources Canada, Federal Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, Government of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, 1977.
*13- Nucleonics Week, 19 March 1998, p 8
*14- Report of the Nuclear Fuel Waste Management and Disposal Concept Environmental Assessment Panel: Nuclear Fuel Waste Management and Disposal Concept, Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, February 1998; published on 13 March 1998.
*15- Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Press release: Government Releases Report of Panel Studying the Disposal of Nuclear Fuel Waste, Ottawa, 13 March 1998.
*16- Nucleonics Week, 19 March 1998, p 8 en 9.
*17- NWMO: NWMO ‘Learn More’ Program, 13 November 2009.
*18- World Nuclear News: Search for Canadian Nuclear Waste Site, 4 June 2010
*19- NWMO: NWMO ‘Learn More’ Program - The Long-Term Management of Used Nuclear Fuel in Canada, 13 November 2009
*20- The Globe and Mail: Towns vie to be nuclear waste burial sites, 14 January 2012