Many countries have nuclear energy programmes, meaning that they have to store and dispose of the high-level waste, spent fuel and low- and intermediate-level waste from the daily operation of the nuclear power plants.
In some of these countries, radioactive waste repositories are already in operation.
Low- and intermediate-level waste has been stored at Mol and Dessel since 1986; high-level waste is stored at Dessel and spent fuel at Doel (since 1995) and Tihange (since 1997).
Preparations are underway at Dessel for a surface repository for low- and intermediate-level waste. The Belgian government approved construction of the facility in 2006. It is expected to start operating in 2020.
A report on the feasibility in principle of geological disposal of high-level waste in clay formations (Boom Clays) was presented by Ondraf (Organisme national des déchets radioactifs et des matières fissiles enrichies) in 2001. A proposal on how to proceed further in the programme was submitted at the end of 2011 and the government will now decide on the waste management strategy to be followed.
The Boom Clays have been under investigation since 1973, since 1984 in an underground rock laboratory at Mol.
The two nuclear power plant sites at Olkiluoto and Loviisa have wet storage facilities for spent fuel.
Low- and intermediate-level waste (L/ILW) has been disposed of in a geological repository for operational waste at Olkiluoto since 1992. The disposal caverns are located around 100 metres below ground surface in a crystalline rock formation. A L/ILW repository at a depth of 110 metres has also been in operation at Loviisa since 1998.
Plans for a geological repository for long-lived intermediate-level waste and spent fuel at Olkiluoto were approved by Parliament in 2001. The construction work on the site-specific Onkalo rock laboratory started in 2004. Research has been conducted there since the beginning of its construction. In November 2015, the waste management organisation Posiva was granted the construction licence for the final disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel. The operation licence application will be submitted in 2020. The facility is expected to start operation in the early 2020s.
Radioactive waste is stored in several surface facilities.
There are two near-surface disposal facilities for short-lived low- and intermediate-level waste (L/ILW). Short-lived L/ILW was disposed of at Centre de la Manche between 1962 and 1994 and the Centre de l'Aube facility has been in operation since 1992. A repository for very low-level waste has been in operation in Morvilliers since 2003 and a repository for long-lived L/ILW is currently in the planning stage.
High-level waste will be disposed of in a deep geological repository. The aim is to submit a construction licence application by 2015 and to have the repository operational from 2025. Andra (Agence nationale pour la gestion des déchets radioactifs) operates a rock laboratory in a clay formation at Bure. The potential repository site, which is currently under investigation, is in the same area, several kilometres distant from the rock laboratory location.
The current waste management strategy foresees decentralised interim storage at the power plant sites, although there are centralised storage facilities at Ahaus and Gorleben.
Radioactive waste will ultimately be disposed of in geological repositories.
Between 1971 and 1998, low- and intermediate-level waste was disposed of in the decommissioned Morsleben salt mine. The repository has been backfilled in recent years and closure is planned from 2014. The former Asse salt mine was used for test emplacement of radioactive waste from 1967 to 1978 and the Federal Office for Radiation Protection has been looking at potential decommissioning options for the facility since 2009. A construction licence has been granted by the Environment Ministry of Lower Saxony for a geological repository for waste with low heat production in the former Konrad iron ore mine. Following the decision of the Federal Government in 2007 to use the Konrad mine as a repository, work on converting the facility has now been initiated. Construction will continue until around 2019.
The Gorleben salt dome is under discussion as a potential geological repository for high-level radioactive waste. In 1986, work began on construction of an underground facility for investigating the suitability of the salt dome. The investigation activities were halted in 2000 and resumed in 2010 following a government resolution. However, the aim is to initiate a new site selection process.
The Netherlands has one reactor in operation, contributing around 5 percent to total electricity production.
Low- and intermediate-level waste has been stored at the Borssele nuclear power plant site since 1992. High-level waste has been in long-term interim storage (around 100 years) since 2003. The aim is to ensure retrievability and secure the necessary funding for implementing a disposal plan.
Radioactive waste is currently stored at the reactor sites. A centralised interim storage facility at Villar de Cañas will start operation in 2018.
Low- and intermediate-level waste has been disposed of in the El Cabril surface repository since 1992. A facility for very low-level waste has been in operation at the same site since 2008.
Generic (i.e. non-site-specific) safety reports have been prepared on geological repositories for high-level waste in granite and clay. The priority, however, is to first construct the centralised interim storage facility.
Low- and intermediate-level waste (L/ILW) is stored at nuclear power plant sites (Barsebäck, Ringhals, Oskarshamn) and at the Studsvik Research Center.
A centralised underground wet storage facility (CLAB) for spent fuel has been in operation at the Oskarshamn power plant site since 1985. An expansion of this facility was completed in 2008.
A L/ILW repository has been in operation at the Forsmark power plant site (crystalline rock) since 1988. SKB (Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB), the Swedish organisation with responsibility for managing radioactive waste, is planning to extend this facility and will submit a construction licence application in 2013.
Extensive site investigations were carried out in the crystalline formations at Oskarshamn and Forsmark between 2002 and 2007 with a view to constructing a geological repository for spent fuel. SKB proposed the Forsmark site in June 2009 and submitted a licence application in 2011. Operation is expected to begin around 2025.
The crystalline bedrock has been under investigation in the Äspö rock laboratory since 1995. There is also a Canister Laboratory at Oskarshamn, where methods for sealing and testing waste canisters are being developed. A conditioning facility for spent fuel (in copper canisters) is currently in planning, with an application for a construction licence being submitted in 2006.
Radioactive waste is stored in a surface facility at the Sellafield site.
There are also decentralised storage facilities at more than 30 other sites.
Low- and intermediate-level waste has been disposed of in near-surface facilities at Dounreay since 1957 and at Drigg since 1959.
High-level waste and spent fuel will be disposed of in geological repositories. The waste management strategy was defined by the government in 2008 and the site selection process is currently underway, based on voluntary applications from potential siting communities.
Radioactive waste is stored in a centralised facility and at reactor sites.
A geological repository for low- and intermediate-level waste is planned at Kincardine. The licensing procedure for this facility began in 2005 and operation could start in 2020. Legacy wastes from radium and uranium processing will be disposed of in a near-surface facility at Port Hope. The CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) granted the licence for this facility in 2009 and the implementation phase began in 2012.
The long-term plan for high-level waste is to construct a geological repository. The site selection process began in 2010.
A rock laboratory was operated at Lac du Bonnet between 1990 and 2001.
Radioactive waste is stored at several locations.
An interim storage facility for low- and intermediate-level waste and high-level waste has been in operation at Rokkasho-mura since 1992; spent fuel has also been stored there since 1999. Spent fuel is also stored at the reactor sites. A large-capacity storage facility for spent fuel is currently being constructed at Mutsu. Various research organisations also operate their own storage facilities for low- and intermediate-level waste. High-level waste is also stored at the research centre of JAEA (Japan Atomic Energy Agency) in Tokai.
A surface repository for low- and intermediate-level waste has been operating at Rokkasho-mura since 1992. Planning of an underground repository (around 100 metres deep) for decommissioning waste is currently underway. In 2008, the government assigned JAEA (Japan Atomic Energy Agency) the task of planning and implementing a surface repository for waste from medicine and research.
NUMO (Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan) is currently planning a geological repository for high-level waste. The aim is to select a site by 2025. Since April 2008, NUMO has also been responsible for the disposal of long-lived intermediate level waste (TRU waste) arising from reprocessing and from MOX fuel fabrication.
Rock laboratories in granite were operated in the former iron and copper mine at Kamaishi from 1988 to 1998 and the uranium mine at Tono from 1986 to 2003. New rock laboratories are now under construction at Horonobe (sediment) and Mizunami (crystalline).
The DOE (Department of Energy) operates several interim storage facilities for low- and intermediate-level waste and long-lived intermediate-level waste the Hanford site (Washington State).
There are also decentralised storage facilities at 72 reactor sites in 33 states.
For low- and intermediate-level waste, there are both state-run (currently five facilities) and non-state-run disposal facilities (four closed, four in operation).
The Yucca Mountain site in a tuff formation was approved by Congress for disposal of high-level waste. However, the government has decided not to pursue this option and set up a commission to investigate alternative waste management strategies. The Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future submitted its final report at the beginning of 2012. It identifies deep geological disposal as the best strategy from a scientific viewpoint. A working group is now looking at the next steps to be taken in the programme.
There is a repository for military transuranic waste (WIPP) at Carlsbad (New Mexico).