What other countries are doing
ONDRAF/NIRAS, Belgium’s Agency for Radioactive Waste and Enriched Fissile Materials, is responsible for the management of all the radioactive waste in Belgium. ONDRAF/NIRAS’s mission is to protect the public and the environment from any potential hazards of radioactive waste.
On Nov. 22, 2022, a Royal Decree was published, serving as the first regulatory act to formally establish a national policy for the safe and responsible long-term management of high-level and/or long-lived radioactive waste in Belgium. This first step in the regulatory process ratifies the decision in principle of deep disposal on Belgian territory, as recommended by ONDRAF/NIRAS, and lays the foundations for establishing the implementation procedures at a later stage and within a clear framework. Belgium is taking responsibility for their radioactive waste and making every effort to avoid passing on undue stresses to future generations.
The China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is responsible for the development of a deep geological repository for used CANDU fuel, and for high-level waste from the reprocessing of used light water reactor fuel.
China’s site selection process, which is technically-driven, began in 1986 and focused on three candidate locations in the Beishan region of Gansu province in northwest China. In 2016, one of the siting regions was selected to host an underground research laboratory. The site for the underground research laboratory has strong potential to become the eventual site of the repository. Site selection is expected in the 2020s.
Posiva is responsible for the final disposal of the used nuclear fuel of its two owners: Teollisuuden Voima and Fortum Power & Heat. These companies currently operate 4 nuclear reactors, with a fifth expected to start commercial operation in Dec 2022.
Posiva’s site selection process, which was technically-driven and consent-based, began in the 1980s. In 2000, the Olkiluoto island in Eurajoki was selected as the site for final disposal. The construction licence application for the repository was submitted in 2012 and granted in 2015. An application for a licence to operate was submitted in 2021. Construction is in progress and the excavation of the first five disposal tunnels was completed in June 2022.
FranceAndra is responsible for the long-term management of France’s used nuclear fuel. France currently has 59 operational nuclear power plants, with 78 per cent of its electricity coming from nuclear power.
Andra’s siting studies began in 2007, just outside the village of Bure in the Champagne-Ardenne region of eastern France. In 2023, Andra submitted a licence application for the construction of a deep geological repository. Construction is expected to start in 2025.
Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) is responsible for the safety and protection of people and the environment against damages due to ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. This includes radiation from sources such as medical diagnostics, mobile communications and nuclear technology.
Germany is investigating a site for a deep geological repository, with its procedure outlined in the StandAG (Repository Site Selection Act). The Bundesgesellschaft für Endlagerung (BGE) is the implementing organization.
In 2020, as part of the site selection process, the BGE published its interim report on sub-areas. The interim report is subject to public participation and review, which was initiated in October 2020. The former reference repository site at Gorleben is no longer being considered. The final siting criteria are currently being developed.
PURAM is responsible for implementing the site selection process for a deep geological repository for Hungary's high-level nuclear waste. The site selection process is expected to be completed by 2030.
The Government of India’s Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) conducts research on repository development and siting at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Trombay, Mumbai. Siting activities for a planned repository are focused in the northwest Rajasthan region of India.
Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO) is responsible for ensuring the safe, long-term management of vitrified high-level and long-lived intermediate-level radioactive wastes (the latter is termed TRU waste in Japan) from Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle. The research and development for geological disposal of these wastes is supported by relevant organizations, including the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), which is operating off-site underground research laboratories in both crystalline rock and sedimentary rock.
NUMO has been promoting the siting process since its establishment in 2000. After the great Tohoku earthquake and Fukushima Daiichi accident, a range of discussions were held to reconstruct the geological disposal program at the government level.
The Basic Policy Plan according to the Designated Radioactive Waste Final Disposal Act was amended in May 2015. This included a siting strategy in which the Government of Japan will play a proactive role by nominating “scientifically favourable areas” to assist in resolving the issue of high-level radioactive and TRU waste disposal. In addition, there is a plan to help regional populations, and the Japanese public as a whole, to understand the geological disposal program. A detailed geological map, including exclusion areas, was released in 2017 for public review and discussion. NUMO expects site selection by about 2025, with repository operation from about 2035.
The National Operator for Radioactive Waste Management (NO RWM) is the responsible national operator for the Russian nuclear waste management program.
In 2008, the Nizhnekansky Rock Massif at Zheleznogorsk in Krasnoyarsk Territory was proposed as the location of the deep geological repository for high-level waste and used nuclear fuel. In 2016 the site was approved. Construction of the repository will only occur after a period of research using an underground research laboratory, which is currently under construction at the site.
JAVYS (Nuclear and Decommissioning Company) is the implementer of the site selection process for a deep geological repository for Slovakia's used nuclear fuel. There are two sites undergoing detailed site investigations.
Slovakia is also considering the option of participating in a shared international repository project.
The Korea Radioactive Waste Agency (KORAD) is responsible for the implementation of South Korea's radioactive waste disposal program. Legislation defining a site selection process, including community consultations, is under preparation. Currently, all used fuel is stored at the reactor sites pending a future government decision on its disposition, which may include either reprocessing or direct disposal. A review committee for spent fuel management policy has been formed with the task of collecting industry and public opinions and recommending policy updates to the government.
Research has been ongoing since the 1990s into the development of a geologic disposal concept for high-level waste and spent fuel. The KAERI Underground Research Tunnel (KURT) at Daejeon in a granite host rock has been in operation since 2007, and the Korea Reference Disposal System (KRS) is based on the Swedish KBS-3V concept. A future site-specific underground research laboratory is planned for the chosen deep geological repository site. For planning purposes, the in-service date is assumed to be in 2060.
The Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB) was established in the 1970s to manage Swedish spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste in a safe way. Sweden currently has six operational nuclear power plants, with roughly 40 per cent of its electricity coming from nuclear power.
SKB’s siting process for a used fuel repository began in the early 1990s. In 2009, after years of feasibility studies, Oskarshamn was chosen as the host municipality of the interim storage facility and encapsulation facility, and the Forsmark site in Östhammar was selected as the host municipality of the final repository.
In 2011, SKB applied for a deep geological repository construction licence. On Aug. 26, 2021, the Swedish government approved the application for an increased storage licence for the interim storage facility in Oskarshamn. This aspect is with the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and the Land and Environment Court for further examination.
In 2022, SKB received approval from the government regarding the encapsulation facility in Oskarshamn and the final repository in Östhammar. The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority had also stated its firm support for the suggested solution. Oskarshamn and Östhammar have officially accepted the establishment of the encapsulation plant and final repository in their respective municipalities.
Nagra is responsible for the safe management of Switzerland’s used nuclear fuel. It also engages in co-operative research with other national nuclear waste management organizations around the globe. Switzerland currently has five operational nuclear power plants, with 40 per cent of its electricity coming from nuclear power.
Nagra’s siting process began in 1972. Zürcher Weinland was originally identified as a potential siting region. However, in 2005 the Swiss government requested that Nagra identify alternative regions. In 2007, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy issued a “Sectoral Plan for Geological Repositories” for public review. The Swiss Federal Council approved the strategic part of the plan.
At the end of 2018, after a period of public consultation, Nagra officially entered the last stage of their site selection process, with detailed site investigations of three siting regions. Nagra announced in 2022 that Switzerland’s used nuclear fuel will be stored for the long term at Nördlich Lägern, which is located north of Zurich. It expects to submit a general licence application by 2024.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is tasked with implementing government policy on higher-activity radioactive waste and developing a low-level waste strategy. It engages in co-operative research with other national radioactive waste management organizations around the globe.
In 2007, the NDA established the Radioactive Waste Management Directorate to develop a geological disposal solution. In 2014, the Radioactive Waste Management Directorate became a separate company—Radioactive Waste Management Limited—a wholly owned subsidiary of NDA with the specific task of implementing geological disposal.
In January 2018, the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy launched a new siting process, beginning with community consultations to explore views on the approach to planning and selecting a site for a geological disposal facility in partnership with potential willing host communities.
In November 2021, the first of two community partnerships was formed in Copeland, Cumbria to advance discussions around siting a geological disposal facility for high-level radioactive waste. A second partnership is expected to be formed soon in neighbouring South Copeland.
In 2022, the government announced the launch of Nuclear Waste Services, bringing together site operator Low Level Waste Repository Limited, geological disposal facility developer Radioactive Waste Management Limited, and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA) Integrated Waste Management Program.
The Department of Energy (DOE) is dedicated to the safe disposal of waste, including the safe and efficient management of spent nuclear fuel for disposal in a geological repository. The United States currently has 104 operational nuclear power plants, with 19 per cent of its electricity coming from nuclear power.
The DOE engaged in the screening of nine candidate sites from 1983 to 1986. In 1987, Congress directed it to study only one site, Yucca Mountain, located near a nuclear weapons test site in Nevada. In 2002, the Secretary of Energy recommended Yucca Mountain to the President. While the President approved the site, the State of Nevada strongly opposed it.
In 2009, the government indicated that Yucca Mountain was no longer an option. A Blue Ribbon Commission was formed to provide recommendations for developing a safe, long-term method to manage nuclear waste. In 2013, the Administration issued its Strategy for the Management and Disposal of Used Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste, a framework for moving toward a sustainable program for managing the country’s used fuel.
A new siting process labelled “consent-based siting” was being developed by the DOE. However, that project was cancelled by the 2017-2020 federal administration, and attempts were made to revive the Yucca Mountain project. The current federal administration is reviewing options and developing a new plan.