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Future generations and nuclear waste; latest developments

The European Council has adopted a “Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management Directive, which should enter into force (at the latest) in September this year, see (http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/11/906&format=HTML&aged=0&language=en&guiLanguage=fr).  There have been a series of crises in relation to nuclear storage, recently highlighted by the Fukushima plant in Japan but which had also been brought into relief by other natural disasters such as the wildfires in Russia last summer. 

The Directive would commit the European Union to the final disposal of European nuclear waste, “in order to avoid imposing undue burdens on future generations”.  "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."  The first nuclear power reactor in Europe was the Calder Hall plant in the UK which became operational in 1956, so it is noteworthy that more than 50 years later there are still no final repositories for nuclear waste.

Under the Directive when it enters into force, Member States have to submit the first national programmes by 2015 to the Commission, which will examine them and may require changes. The  programmes will 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. The intention is for the final disposal of European nuclear waste within Europe but provisions remain for export under strict criteria to a country which has deep geological storage.

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

Reuters reported on the development (www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/19/us-eu-nuclear-idUSTRE76I1N520110719) and further information can also be read at on the Environmental New Service report (insert link to http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jul2011/2011-07-19-01.html)