Where Will Europe Bury Its Nuclear Radioactive Waste?

Human Wrongs Watch

Europe has just confirmed what many reports have suspected for years — that EU member states are allowed (by themselves) to ship their radioactive waste -generated by its 143 nuclear reactors- to “third countries” to bury their highly dangerous material there.

In fact,“Exports of radioactive waste and spent fuel to countries outside the EU is allowed under very strict and binding conditions: the third country needs to have a final repository in operation, when the waste is being shipped,” says the EU “Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management Directive.”

“Such a repository for highly radioactive waste is internationally defined to be a deep geological repository,”, adds this Directive which has just been adopted.

However, “At present, such deep geological repositories do not exist anywhere in the world nor is a repository in construction outside of the EU. It takes currently a minimum of 40 years to develop and build one,” according to EU.

Where will Europe bury its highly dangerous nuclear radioactive waste?

Nuclear waste flask train at Bristol Temple Meads| Chris McKenna: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Thryduulf

Not To Africa, Not To Pacific Nor To Caribbean Countries…Where Then?

Would the possible answer have eventually to do with the eternal “non-solution” to Somalia’s armed conflicts that have converted it in “nobody’s land and everybody’s land?” Or maybe rather with the frenetic EU rush to sign “free trade” agreements with so many “third countries”?

Surprisingly, the EU says “According to already existing EU Directives on the shipment of spent fuels and radioactive waste, the export to African, Pacific and Caribbean Countries as well to Antarctica is already explicitly ruled out.” Where then?

Europe Is Just Happy With Its Directive

The announcement of the adoption of EU Directive, which was made in Brussels on July 19th, 2011, does not refer to any of the above raised key questions. Instead, it starts with three own, too much simplified questions:

“Will the EU have binding standards for managing radioactive waste in the EU? Including final repositories for nuclear waste from nuclear power plants? Will (EU) Member States have to notify detailed programmes on when and how they will build these repositories? The answer to all these questions is: Yes.”

EU Countries To Start Reporting On The Year….. 2015!

With this adoption, the Directive will enter into force at the latest in September this year, and Member States have to submit the first national programmes in 2015.

“This is a major achievement for nuclear safety in the EU” said Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger.

“After years of inaction, the EU for the very first time commits itself to a final disposal of nuclear waste. With this directive, the EU becomes the most advanced region for the safe management of radioactive waste and spent fuel,” he said.

All EU Countries Produce Radioactive Waste—Al Of Them

All EU Member States produce radioactive waste, generated by numerous activities, such as electricity production, medicine, research, industry and agriculture. 14 out of 27 Member States have nuclear reactors which generate also spent fuel, according to EU.

“While reaffirming the ultimate responsibility of Member States for the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste, the Directive adopted today (July 19th) creates a strong EU framework with important obligations imposed on Member States.”

What ‘Important Obligations’ Does The EU Have?

These are in particular:

– Member States will have to draw up national programmes and notify them to the Commission by 2015 at the latest. The Commission will examine them and can require changes.

– National programmes have to include plans with a concrete timetable for the construction of disposal facilities, as well as a description of the activities needed for the implementation of disposal solutions, costs assessments and a description of the financing schemes. They will have to be updated regularly.

– Safety standards drawn up by the International Atomic Energy Agency become legally binding.

They Will Let The General Public (!) And Workers (!) Know

Information shall be made available to the general public and workers. The public shall also be given the opportunities to participate effectively in the decision-making process, says the EU.

Moreover, Member States “are required to invite periodically international peer reviews to exchange experience and ensure the application of the highest standards. This shall be done at least every 10 years,” it adds.

“Finally, two or more Member States can agree to use a disposal facility in one of them.”

EC and European Parliament Proposed A Complete Export Ban, But…

In its initial directive proposal, the Commission’s had advocated a complete export ban in the new directive, says EU related information.

“On 23 June 2011, the European Parliament in its plenary session voted in favour of a complete export ban as proposed by the Commission. As the legal basis for this directive is the Euratom Treaty, the European Parliament is only consulted, the opinion is therefore not binding. The final decision is taken only by the Council.”

The EC Will Monitor…. Carefully!

The EU concludes its information saying “The Commission will closely and carefully monitor the implementation of the new Directive, in particular progress made in building disposal facilities for radioactive waste and spent fuel and, if they occur at a later stage, possible exports of radioactive material.”

That’s all?

The Problem… According To EC

All Member States produce radioactive waste, the European Commission says. More than half of the Member States have nuclear power plants in operation.

There are nuclear reactors under construction and under decommissioning, and plans for new builds.

“Radioactive waste, including spent fuel considered as waste, requires containment and isolation from humans and their living environment for a very long time,” the EC reports.

“Whatever the future of nuclear power and non-power applications, the ‘end point’ of the management of all existing and future radioactive waste must be disposal in appropriate facilities, in order to ensure both safety and sustainability. This obligation cannot be left to future generations.”

The “Wait-And-See” Policy… Again!

The technical consensus world-wide is that storage of spent fuel and radioactive waste, even long-term storage, is an interim solution requiring permanent active control. It does not represent an alternative to disposal, with its inherent passive safety features.

Despite this consensus and developments in the EU, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Energy Agency, key decisions on managing spent fuel and radioactive waste up to the end point are often still postponed.

In many countries, this ‘wait-and-see’ policy constitutes the main problem. To overcome this situation there is a need for political commitment, public information and participation in decision making, as well as sufficient scientific, technical and financial resources.




Copyright © 2011 Human Wrongs Watch

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