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New Nuclear Programmes Must Not Neglect Waste Management

[+] Author Affiliations
Charles McCombie

Arius Association, Baden, Switzerland

Paper No. ICEM2011-59077, pp. 39-44; 6 pages
  • ASME 2011 14th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management
  • ASME 2011 14th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management, Parts A and B
  • Reims, France, September 25–29, 2011
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Engineering Division and Environmental Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5498-3
  • Copyright © 2011 by ASME


Many established nuclear power programmes have learned to their dismay that waste management and disposal are not tasks that can be postponed at will if public and political acceptance is a prerequisite for progress. In fact, some programmes that recognised this back in the 1970s and 1980s moved into leading positions in repository development. This happened, for example, in Sweden and Switzerland where already in the 1970s Laws were passed specifying that safe disposal must be demonstarted before new nuclear plants could opersate. In recent years, it has become recognised that, in order to ensure that the radioactive wastes in any country are managed safely, it is necessary to have an established legislative and regulatory framework and also to create the necessary organizations for implementation and for oversight of waste management operations and facility development. Guidance on these issues is given in the Joint Convention and a number of other IAEA documents. The IAEA, and also the EC, have in addition published key overarching advisory documents for new nuclear programmes. These are useful for strategic planning but, when it comes to actual implementation projects, the advice tends to imply that all nuclear programmes, however large or small, should be pressing ahead urgently towards early operation of geological repositories. In practice, however, in small programmes there are neither economic nor technical drivers for early implementation of deep geological repositories. Constructing simpler facilities for the disposal of the larger volume of low-level wstes has higher priority. Nevertheless, in all countries political decisions have to be taken and policies set in place to ensure that geological disposal will implemented without unjustified delay. This paper distils out a set of key messages for new programmes. Amongst the most critical are the following. Even if disposal is far off, planning and organization should begin at the initiation of the programme; this can help with technical and economic optimization and (importantly) also with public and political acceptance. Important lessons can be learned from advanced programmes — but these must be adapted to allow for the different boundary conditions of new and small programmes. The key differences relate to the timescales involved, and the resources available. There is a range of waste management and waste disposal options open to new programmes. It is not necessary to choose definitive solutions at the outset; options can be kept open, but a minimum level of engagement is required for all open options.

Copyright © 2011 by ASME



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