More than fifty years after the commissioning of the first European nuclear reactor, there is still not in the Union of final storage for long-lived waste site the more radioactive: spent fuel and waste from the reprocessing. Today, the European authorities believe that it is time to act.
On the 27 Member States of the Union, of which 14 have nuclear power plants, only the France, the Sweden and the Finland are engaged on a timetable for the opening of a centre for storage in deep geological layer for 2020-2025. The Belgium and the Germany speak for a 2040 horizon, while other States have not yet taken political decision.
The path of the containment
After thirty years of research and scientific debate on the management of these hazardous materials in the very long term (a million years), the path of the containment in geological formations deep seems the most appropriate response, believes the European Commission. It therefore yesterday presented a draft directive which would oblige Member States to adopt national plans of their radioactive waste management and to report on the progress of their work. A text that would apply to all States, including those who have no power, and all types of waste.
Without setting date deadline, Brussels seeks a timetable of debate that has lead each Member with civil society and research leading to a storage of their waste. The directive is also make legally binding safety standards established by the International Atomic Energy Agency and strictly prohibit any export of nuclear waste, thus blocking the road to the Russia service offerings or other countries.
Conscious however difficulties for small States with a single reactor, the Commission is however the door open to associations between European countries for a joint centre.
Relatively soft, the text is an incentive to act, while storage projects are always violent local opposition. Thus, he took advantage neither for nor against the reprocessing of spent fuel, leaves to each state its technological choices, not slice nor the debate on "reversibility", namely, the maintenance or non-access to the waste buried in the basement.
"For the France, it does impose little additional constraints, explains a specialist of the Institute of radiation protection and nuclear safety." But it is a European framework to encourage States to adopt a comprehensive framework of their radioactive waste management, while there is now a patchwork of initiatives and scattered regulations.
The Commission hopes to obtain fire Green governments in the first half of 2011, what time the implementation, would analyze the "national plans" by 2015.
Supported by the nuclear industry, the project does raise little opposition among the Member States, which had rejected in 2003 a proposal similar but with a good schedule more strict. One possible topic of dissension, the Commission imposes the polluter-pays principle and reserves the right to control if adequate funds are well set aside for waste management.
On the associations anti-nuclear and the Greens, however, it disputed the scientific validity of underground storage, seen as a way to eliminate a problem rather than solve it.