Commission reports “dramatic reduction” in EU radioactive waste

The annual production of all radioactive waste in the EU is approximately 50,000 m³, according to the European Commission's fourth report on the situation of radioactive waste management in the European Union (EU).

This represents a dramatic reduction compared with figures presented in the previous (third) report, where values of 80,000 m³/year were being predicted for the EU (not taking into account radioactive waste in Austria, Finland and Sweden, which were not Member States at that time), says the Commission.

The reasons cited for the reduction are:

  • construction of new power plants has all but halted (the exception being France),
  • a number of older plants have been closed down definitively,
  • nuclear power plant operators have made tremendous efforts to reduce waste production at source and
  • advanced waste volume reduction techniques are being applied.

All Member States have radioactive waste arisings, even if quantities of waste needing long-term storage and disposal are very small in countries without nuclear energy production capacity. For Member States without a nuclear power programme, annual arisings of radioactive waste requiring storage and disposal are low, typically 0.5 m³ per million inhabitants, though this may rise to 10 m³ per million inhabitants in those countries operating research reactors.

All Member States with a nuclear power plant programme have practised radioactive waste disposal. Until the end of 1994, a total of 1,640,000 m³ had been disposed of, either by ocean disposal (until 1982), by surface and shallow disposal, or by deep geological disposal. However, long-lived heat-generating waste is stored on the surface until deep facilities for their disposal become available. A number of Member States are involved in preparatory work for disposal of this type of waste, such as operating underground laboratories, seeking sites or preparing licensing

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