Views on the concept of multinational approaches to the management and disposal of nuclear waste

  • Each country must take responsibility for its own nuclear waste. 
  • Each country has the right to prohibit the import of foreign waste into its territory.
  • A successful implementation within the next 10-20 years of some advanced national programmes is a top priority.
  • Countries can agree to share storage or disposal solutions, provided that they comply with international obligations and internationally accepted safety standards. 
  • The ethical considerations to be taken into account in the case of a shared or multinational repository must be the same as those applying to national repositories.
  • International organisations can play an important role to promote RD&D cooperation between member countries and to support progress in national programmes.

Views on Spent Fuel and HLW Management

  • Development of long-term management solutions should proceed irrespective of the future of nuclear power generation.
  • Volumes of spent nuclear fuel and high level waste produced are small and manageable.
  • Spent fuel and HLW is being safely stored on an interim basis and can be continued to be safely stored using current practices for many decades.
  • Spent Fuel and HLW is highly regulated and subject to multiple oversight authority of governments.
  • Many countries have R&D programs on long-term spent fuel management to develop improved methods and techniques. Over 10B$ US has already been spent engaging over 20,000 scientists worldwide.
  • Several countries have concluded that geological disposal is technically safe and feasible. Some countries are implementing geological disposal and have identified potential disposal repository sites.
  • Alternative management strategies are being studied in a number of countries, often within a framework of environmental impact assessment.
  • A step-wise approach in decision-making is being used to address long-term management of spent nuclear fuel and HLW.
  • Financial provisions are being made for radioactive waste management. Long-term costs are recovered from current electricity consumers and not passed on to taxpayers or future generations.

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.