30 Sep (NucNet): Further work on national and regional solutions for deep geological repositories is “essential and urgent” to ensure that spent nuclear fuel and high level waste can be safely disposed of when necessary, says a report published today.
The report, ‘Management of spent nuclear fuel and its waste’, was written by the European Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre, and the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council.
It says that even with a closed or partially closed nuclear fuel cycle there will always be a need for deep geological repositories. It says every EU member state with a nuclear programme should implement a repository programme and that regional geological disposal solutions “may be investigated in parallel”.
Most countries with nuclear programmes have investigated deep geological disposal, but none have yet completed or operated a geologic repository. Preferred sites for high-level waste and spent fuel have been chosen in France, Sweden, the US and Finland, where construction has begun. A site selection process is under way in some countries including the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Canada.
A 2011 report by the International Panel on Fissile Materials said there had been “sustained interest” in the possibility of multinational spent fuel storage facilities or geological repositories, but progress had been “very limited”.
The IPFM report said shared facilities could take advantage of economies of scale, provide more time for countries to decide on fuel cycle strategies and strengthen the non-proliferation regime.
In a 2004 report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said the concept of multinational repositories should continue to receive support from all countries that have an interest in shared disposal. The agency said multinational repositories can improve global safety and security by making disposal available to a wider range of countries.
Today’s report says defining spent fuel management policy is an “essential step” of any nuclear programme and technical and financial resources must be available.
It says a nuclear programme is a long-term commitment which includes not only the operation of nuclear plants, but also the processing and disposal of fuel. The programme inevitably extends to a century or more.
Future geological disposal must guarantee the very long term safety of long-lived and high level waste, the report says. For this reason safety functions have to be passive (not depending on human intervention) and robust (not sensitive to changes in surrounding conditions).
The report says education and training are essential to support the long-term safe management of spent nuclear fuel. It urges the EU to find initiatives to enable the sharing of training materials and access to research facilities.
The report is online:
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