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European cooperation towards the Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste

While decisions on the use of nuclear energy are the responsibility of individual Member States, the safe management of resulting nuclear waste is a matter of concern for all European Union citizens.

The Euratom Framework Programme has supported research in this field for many years and this is continuing in the current 7 th Framework Programme. Today over 300 representatives of the research community, implementing organisations, regulatory authorities and decision makers meet at the EU organized conference Euradwaste ' 08 in Luxembourg. During the 7 th Conference on the Management and Disposal of Radioactive Waste they discuss until Wednesday the latest findings in their field and possibilities for further cooperation.

Euradwaste'08 is a showcase event for the results of the Sixth Euratom Framework Programme (FP6, 2002-2006). The long-term safe management of high-level radioactive waste, such as spent nuclear fuel and the vitrified residues from reprocessing of this fuel, is a major challenge for the nuclear sector. Every year some 280 m 3 of high-level vitrified waste and 3600 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel are produced in the EU. Geological disposal is the disposal in engineered repositories situated at depth in suitable geological formations, where the geological conditions will contribute to the long-term isolation and containment of long-lived radionuclides. Potential host rocks include granite, clay and salt formations.

Within the Euratom FP6 CARD project, ( the major national radioactive waste management organisations of ten European States (Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom) reaffirmed their interest in enhancing cooperation in the remaining R&D necessary during the run-up to actual implementation of geological repositories. This must be coordinated with the on-going efforts in a number of European research centres and Technical Safety Organisations. Together, this will enable all R&D stakeholders to address better common research goals and optimise resources. At the conference, the basis will be laid for a common vision for future R&D in this field, leading to the elaboration by the key stakeholders of a Strategic Research Agenda and Deployment Strategy. Implementation of geological disposal is likely to take place in at least three Member States by 2025. The Swedish and Finnish radioactive waste management companies are piloting the current work and coordinating the drafting of the collective vision. It is hoped that the European Technological Platform will be formally launched in summer 2009.


Under FP6, the European Commission invested some 90 million Euros in R&D on radioactive waste, half of it on geological disposal, the other half on techniques to minimise waste volumes and radiotoxicity. This support, provided typically through large multi-partner collaborative projects looking to integrate the research effort on key aspects of the disposal system, follows that in previous Framework Programmes focussed on investigation and demonstration of basic phenomena. This Euratom support has helped established a sound technical basis for the design, construction, operation and closure of geological repositories, and underpins the development of a common European view on the main issues related to the management and disposal of waste. The focus is now on implementation-oriented R&D in support of license applications, especially related to performance and safety assessment and the reduction of uncertainties. For further background on this complex technical and socio-political issue, refer to the European Commission's Sixth Situation Report on Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management in the European Union :

Florian Frank | alfa
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