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A Proportionate Approach to Radioactive Waste Disposal

  • EDRAM’s position is that geological disposal is the only acceptable option for the long term management of higher activity radioactive wastes.  It has also stated that geological disposal will be required regardless of the introduction of treatment options such as partitioning and transmutation.
  • However a number of countries have identified a proportion of their waste inventory that, whilst being unsuitable for surface disposal may not require geological disposal at depths greater than 200 to 300 metres.
  • EDRAM accepts that such an approach to the management of radioactive wastes is appropriate subject to the following considerations:
    • Any disposal concept should be based on provision of safety functions appropriate to the dgree of isolation and containment required for the radioactive waste over suitable time scales.
    • When defining the disposal concept, a number of means such as the site characteristics, the waste forms or the engineered barriers system can be called on to adequately satisfy the above mentioned requirements.
    • In particular the selected depth of any disposal facility contributes to the degree and duration of isolation and of protection from surface erosion due to effects such as glaciation.  Disposal also plays a role in preventing human intrusion.
    • Existing surface disposal facilities may not provide the safety functions needed for long-lived radioactive waste.
    • By extending the depth of facilities below the ground level as needed, the degree and/or duration of isolation, protection from natural surface processes and potentially containment can be enhanced.
    • Such facilities could then be suitable for the disposal of material that would present a relatively low hazard, with regard to their radiological inventory, such as irradiated graphite, some operational waste and decommissioning wastes.
    • Any approach will need to demonstrate compliance with the applicable safety standards but this proportionate approach can optimise the implementation of radioactive waste disposal solutions.