Publicatie Laka-bibliotheek:
Nuclear waste management in the EU – Implementation of directive 2011/70/EURATOM Assessment report

AuteurG.Mraz, Patricia Lorenz
Datumjanuari 2022
Classificatie (AFVAL - RICHTLIJN 2011/70/EURATOM)

Uit de publicatie:

Nuclear waste remains an unsolved and highly dangerous problem because it needs to be contained
safely from the environment for one million years.

In an attempt to solve the nuclear waste problem, an EU-wide regulation was introduced in 2011, the
“Council Directive 2011/70/Euratom establishing a Community framework for the responsible and
safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste”. This Directive tried to force EU member
states to address the issue seriously, after this had been neglected for decades – thus immediately
proving that nuclear waste has never been effectively dealt with.

Since the Directive 2011/70/Euratom came into effect, the Joint Project – Nuclear Risk & Public
Control is keeping a close watch on the implementation of the Nuclear Waste Directive. Members of
Joint Project kept monitoring the implementation on national level and EU level and participated in
Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA), organized events for the interested public and took part
in discussion with European Commission representatives and the public at the Aarhus Round Table
on Radioactive Waste Management in January 2021. The assessment report “Nuclear waste
management in the EU. Implementation of Directive 2011/70/Euratom” presents the results gained
the monitoring. Thanks to the Vienna Ombuds Office for Environmental Protection and the Cities for
a Nuclear Free Europe the report was updated extensively.

Until 2015 every member state had to develop a national programme for the management of nuclear
waste; out of formerly 29 EU countries only three (Finland, Luxembourg, Slovakia) managed to
implement this Directive, while all other countries faced infringement procedures. Even so, Finland
has still not solved the issue of copper corrosion, Slovakia has not even started the search for a
repository site and continues examining the export option; Luxembourg exports its nuclear waste to
Belgium which also has not fulfilled the obligations of the Nuclear Waste Directive.

The European Commission (EC) published two Nuclear Waste Directive implementation reports
(2017, 2019; 2021 has not yet been published). In its 2019 implementation report the EC stated that
progress has been made, but “[H]owever, more needs to be done” and presented a long list of
necessary remedies to be delivered by the member states. The 2019 EC report did not show
significant progress compared to the 2017 report, the key issues have not been solved. The EC listed
the deficits and challenges it encountered in the member states’ nuclear waste programmes:

       Swift decisions on national policies, concepts and plans should be taken, especially for
        intermediate level waste and high-level waste.
       Member States that consider shared solutions should cluster up and take practical measures,
        including on site-specific matters.
       Member States must ensure sufficient funding for the costs of the national programmes.
       Classification schemes must be harmonized.
       Many member states’ reports delay the implementation of the programmes. Clear key
        performance indicators are needed for monitoring progress to avoid further delays.
       The inventory projections must be improved.
       The independence of the nuclear waste regulator must be demonstrated or established in
        the first place, including allocating sufficient financial and human resources.
       Outcomes of peer reviews and self-assessments should be shared, and a transparent
        dialogue with stakeholders is necessary.
       Research, development and training also remain important when it comes to delivering long-
        term solutions for intermediate level, high level waste and spent fuel management.
       Many Member States need to improve the quality of their national reports.
       The EC will follow up the work of the Member States and take legal action if necessary.

Also unsolved: The ultimate responsibility for the spent fuel over very long time periods is not
ensured, the post-closure period of deep geological repositories has not been addressed, repository
site selection will take too long in some member states.

As in the field of nuclear power plant safety, international cooperation and peer reviews take place
for nuclear waste programmes, among them the IAEA ARTEMIS missions. Problems became visible in
nearly all sectors that were assessed. Peer review results provide valuable information on
shortcomings, but the public has no possibility to follow up if the recommendations and suggestions
have been implemented, except to wait for a follow-up mission which might take place only years
later: Country may or may not agree to making the mission’s result public.

A very important topic is transparency. One of the newly introduced features of the Directive
2011/70/Euratom is article 10 (1) on transparency: “Member States shall ensure that necessary
information on the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste be made available to workers
and the general public.” The report shows that even from the European Commission’s side
transparency has not been guaranteed throughout the process. The reasons for infringements
procedure against member states’ implementations have not been made public, and national
programmes and reports are published with significant delays or not at all.

Transparency and public participation could be increased easily with an existing and tool, which is
obligatory for plans and programs in the framework of the ESPOO Convention: the SEA (Strategic
Environmental Assessment), however, many countries chose to avoid this, the EC chose to not
enforce an SEA. At the same time, participation in the decision-taking process is of uttermost
importance for the public, and member states had to include measures for transparency and public
participation in decision-taking in their national programmes in line with Art. 10. of the Directive– if
these measures will enable effective participation remains to be seen.

Inventories of nuclear waste remain incomplete, already in 2017, the EC criticized that “a number of
member states have not reported on all types of radioactive waste, particularly radioactive waste
originating from decommissioning and new builds, future forecasts and institutional waste.”

Usually, management concepts include timeframes and monitoring of progress. However, national
waste management programmes seem to be lacking such basic management instruments. Regarding
final disposal of spent nuclear fuel, some countries still refer to the so-called shared solution – under
the ERDO association’s lead – where countries could build a multinational repository in one of
ERDO’s members. A problem for this solution is that many countries have laws in force forbidding
import of nuclear waste, and that all relevant questions are not solved yet – how such a shared
facility should be financed, regulated, insured, etc. Some member states are exporting their spent
nuclear fuel to countries with questionable nuclear waste management practices (like the infamous
Mayak facility in Russia).

One of the general principles of the Nuclear Waste Directive is laid down in Article 4 (3)e: “the costs
for the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste shall be borne by those who generated those
materials”. Article 12(1)h requires member states to provide “an assessment of the national
programme costs and the underlying basis and hypotheses for that assessment, which must include a
profile over time”, and according to Art. 12 (1)i “the financing scheme(s) in force.”

Costs arise during all phases of nuclear waste management. As there is no operable repository for
spent fuel and HLW yet, the costs for such a facility are highly speculative. Nevertheless, it is clear
that costs will be high, that the cost estimates continue rising and enormous funds have to be

While in the 2017 EC Report total costs were estimated to 400 bn euros, the estimate of 2019 was
already significantly higher at 422-566 bn euros. It can be assumed that this number will have to be
adjusted upwards in the next reports.

With its 2019 report the EC confirmed what is widely been known by independent experts and
suspected by the public: many member states do not have reliable data about the future costs of
their nuclear programmes´ back-end and certainly do not have the financial means to cover them.
The key question – who will pay for waste management once the dedicated funds have run dry in
particular once the waste generators after decommissioning of the last NPPs will have stopped their
contributions into those funds. There will hardly be another solution but making the taxpayers pay.

Is Finland’s spent fuel repository a “game changer” for the nuclear industry?

The game changer claim refers to the supposedly upcoming start of the spent fuel repository in
Finland, called Onkalo. The solution applied there foresees the Swedish KBS-3 method of using
copper canisters. However, there are independent scientific studies showing that the copper
canisters may corrode much faster than originally assumed and have not been licensed yet. Also,
copper is also rather expensive, some countries already announced they refrain from this option for
financial reasons (Czech Republic).

Concerning funding, a simple comparison shows how little the Finnish solution – if ever to come true
– means to the overall situation the nuclear industry finds itself in: The official Finnish data show that
the Onkalo repository construction and development costs reached 5 billion euros and should store
6,500 t of spent fuel. Have other countries accumulated comparable funding in their national nuclear
waste funds or have they ensured to have them ready in time? As the Czech Nuclear Waste Agency
noted in its 2019 Nuclear Waste Strategy: “when estimating the economic demands, it is necessary to
understand (…) that a range of insecurities enters the calculation. These insecurities are not only
technical, but also due to unusually remote time horizons, lying significantly beyond standard
planning periods” (RAWRA 2019).

The Czech Republic planned 3.1 billion euros for the construction of the deep geological repository
(DGR); however, only 1.1 billion have been accumulated to date.

Germany is another interesting example for not secured financing. While Germany has the advantage
of a clearly determined amount of spent fuel because of the 2022 completed nuclear phase-out, the
necessary sum is not secured. The 24.06 billion euros in the German fund for the management of
nuclear waste (KENFO) need to be invested in such a manner that the broad estimated range of 169
to 182 billion euros will be the return of this investment at the end of the century – and it is not sure
if the necessary interest rate can be reached.

Clearly, the member states are not applying sufficient efforts to solve the nuclear waste situation.
This became visible when the EC draft taxonomy Delegated Act 2021 proposed that EU countries
have to come up with a plan to ensure the operation of a Deep Geological Repository by 2050. But
member states protested against having to plan for a final disposal in 30 years, because they try to
postpone this even further into the future.

The unsolved nuclear waste problem is one of the key factors why nuclear energy is no sustainable
energy solution.