Europe eyes underground nuclear waste repositories

February 22, 2010 - 0:0

SAN DIEGO, California (AFP) -– Three European countries will within 15 years begin disposing of their nuclear waste deep underground, even though the public is not solidly behind the move, officials said.

In Finland, a deep geological repository where spent nuclear fuel will be disposed of is due to come on stream in 2020, said experts who addressed a forum at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Sweden will follow three years after its Nordic neighbor, and “France plans to start operating a deep geological repository for vitrified high-level waste from reprocessing in 2025,” Roland Schenkel, deputy director general of the European Commission's Joint Research Center, said.
France, along with Britain, Japan and Russia, currently reprocess their nuclear waste and then hold it in an interim storage facility, before the “intended disposal in deep geological repositories,” which is the final resting place for high-level radioactive waste, Schenkel said.
But according to Allison Macfarlane of George Mason University in Virginia and Klaus Luetzenkirchen of the Joint Research Center in Karlsruhe, Germany, storing nuclear waste directly in deep underground repositories without reprocessing it is the best and safest way to go.
Reprocessing is expensive, said Macfarlane, adding: “Geologic repositories are generally agreed to be the best solution for high-level nuclear waste.” Luetzenkirchen said: “It's easier to safeguard nuclear waste that is all underground.”