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4

National Programs

This chapter provides an overview of high-level waste (HLW) and spent nuclear fuel (SNF) management in countries with appreciable inventories of these materials. 1 It focuses mainly on the status of the geological disposition option in these countries. The chapter is intended to summarize the country-specific information that led the committee to its findings and recommendations, rather than provide a comprehensive picture of national programs.

INVENTORIES OF HIGH-LEVEL WASTE AND SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL

Since the nuclear age began some 60 years ago, substantial amounts of HLW and SNF have arisen from both defense and power production activities in many countries. The largest inventories are stored in the United States and Russia. Their current inventories are summarized as follows:

  • The United States' inventory of commercial SNF was about 42,000 metric tons (mt) in 2000 (DOE, 2000).

  • The United States has reported approximately 350,000 m3 of HLW, mainly from former defense activities and stored in tanks at its Hanford and Savannah River sites (IAEA, 2000a).

  • The SNF inventory from various types of reactors in Russia is about 8500 mt (Laverov, 1999a).


1 This chapter maintains a distinction between HLW and SNF because not all countries consider SNF to be a waste.



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Page 49 4 National Programs This chapter provides an overview of high-level waste (HLW) and spent nuclear fuel (SNF) management in countries with appreciable inventories of these materials. 1 It focuses mainly on the status of the geological disposition option in these countries. The chapter is intended to summarize the country-specific information that led the committee to its findings and recommendations, rather than provide a comprehensive picture of national programs. INVENTORIES OF HIGH-LEVEL WASTE AND SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL Since the nuclear age began some 60 years ago, substantial amounts of HLW and SNF have arisen from both defense and power production activities in many countries. The largest inventories are stored in the United States and Russia. Their current inventories are summarized as follows: The United States' inventory of commercial SNF was about 42,000 metric tons (mt) in 2000 (DOE, 2000). The United States has reported approximately 350,000 m3 of HLW, mainly from former defense activities and stored in tanks at its Hanford and Savannah River sites (IAEA, 2000a). The SNF inventory from various types of reactors in Russia is about 8500 mt (Laverov, 1999a). 1 This chapter maintains a distinction between HLW and SNF because not all countries consider SNF to be a waste.

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Page 50 Russia has a total of about 600,000,000 m3 of waste at its defense sites, mainly Mayak, of which more than 25,000 m3 is designated HLW and stored in tanks (Laverov, 1999a). 2 The worldwide inventory is expected to grow significantly during at least the next 30 years, especially the SNF inventory. For example, the SNF inventory in the United States will nearly double to about 83,800 mt by 2035 (DOE, 2000). Although some countries are planning to phase out nuclear power, there are 36 power reactors currently under construction. China, for example, has seven reactors under construction. China expects to have accumulated 1000 mt of SNF by 2010 and 2000 mt by 2015 (Parizek et al., 2000). The 1996 and expected future SNF inventories in several other countries are summarized in Table 4.1 (IAEA, 2000a). Reprocessing of commercial SNF is practiced in some countries; for example, France and the United Kingdom reprocess domestic SNF and, under contract, provide reprocessing services to other countries. HLW from reprocessing is returned to the country of origin. Inventories of vitrified waste from reprocessing accumulated through 1996 and projected to 2014 by countries reporting these data to the International Atomic Energy Agency are summarized in Table 4.2 . The HLW inventory in these countries will more than triple between 1996 and 2014. EXAMPLES OF NATIONAL WASTE MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS The information in this section has been taken mainly from Radioactive Waste Management Programmes in OECD/NEA Member Countries (NEA, 1998), and from the European Union Web site ( http://www.rwmeu.org). Members of the advisory committee have contributed to and verified the information. Belgium Belgium has one candidate site for a deep geological repository, the deep clay formation (referred to as Boom clay) beneath the area of its nuclear research center in Mol. Studies of the Boom clay have been conducted for 25 years. Since 1984, these studies have included the construction and operation of an underground research laboratory (URL), the High Activity Disposal Experimental Site (HADES). HADES includes an access shaft and two galleries at a depth of 230 meters where in situ 2 Russia designates waste as high-level if its activity exceeds 1 curie per liter. In the United States, most tank waste at Hanford and Savannah River is designated as HLW although its average activity is well below 1 curie per liter. Most of the tank waste is composed of crystalline salts and thick sludges.

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Page 51 Table 4.1 Spent Nuclear Fuel Inventories in Representative Countries Country Accumulated Quantity in 1996 (metric tons) Projected Total Quantity in 2014 (metric tons) Argentina 2409 4839 Bulgaria 655 256 Canada 5080 11000 China None reported 2000 Czech Republic 507 1806 Finland 850 2100 France 8100 13500 Germany 8038 7000 a Hungary 423 1400 Italy 285 233 Korea, Republic of 2869 15229 Lithuania 1300 2600 Mexico 113 587 Netherlands 3 0 Poland 603 720 Slovakia 626 1486 Slovenia 220 470 South Africa 605 2160 Spain 1960 4800 Sweden 3450 7700 Switzerland 1250 1970 Ukraine 3120 8217 Source: IAEA (2000a). a Inventory reduced by phase out of nuclear power and reprocessing. Information from the Gesellschaft für Nuklearservice, Essen, Germany. Table 4.2 Vitrified High-Level Waste Inventories in Representative Countries Country Accumulated Quantity in 1996 (m3) Projected Total Quantity in 2014 (m3) Belgium 210 845 France 800 3300 United Kingdom 680 1890 Source: IAEA (2000a). measurements and large-scale integrated experiments take place. The Preliminary Demonstration Test for Clay Disposal (PRACLAY), completed in 1999, extends HADES with another access shaft, a 90-meter-long connecting gallery, and a 30-meter-long gallery for full-scale heating simulations of disposed HLW. In addition to scientific studies, PRACLAY will demonstrate construction techniques suitable for Boom clay.

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Page 52 The results of the preceding 10 years of research on HLW disposal will be presented to the government and used to identify research and demonstration priorities for the next decade. The current plan assumes that operation of a repository could begin in 2035 and continue for about 40 years until closure. Presently, SNF is not considered a waste material in Belgium; instead, it is reprocessed in France at La Hague. Vitrified HLW will be returned to an interim storage facility located near Dessel, Belgium. The first return of vitrified HLW was completed in April 2000. Belgium is storing its low- and intermediate-level wastes in specially engineered facilities at Dessel. This interim storage is intended to continue for 20 or more years. An inquiry is under way to determine candidate sites for eventual disposal of this waste. Canada Canada has no candidate site for a deep geological repository. Based on a 16-year research program, Canada has developed a concept for deep geological disposal in plutonic (granite-like) rock in the Canadian Shield, a geologic region that includes a large part of central and eastern Canada. A URL established in Manitoba in 1990 is a major part of the research program. SNF is considered a waste material in Canada. According to the Canadian concept, SNF would be disposed at a depth of 500 to 1000 meters with a series of engineered barriers that complement the natural barrier of the plutonic rock. SNF is currently stored in pools or in dry concrete canisters at the generating sites. A joint statement by the governments of Canada and Ontario in 1978 directed Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) to initiate development of the deep geological disposal concept. Subsequently, a joint statement in 1981 required a full public hearing and approval by both governments before site selection could begin. An independent environmental assessment panel was appointed in 1989 and produced what is known as the Seaborn report (CEAA, 1998). Among the key conclusions in the panel's report were the following: From a technical perspective, the safety of the concept has been on balance adequately demonstrated for a conceptual state of development, but from a social perspective, it has not. As it stands, the AECL concept for deep geological disposal has not been demonstrated to have broad public support. The report recommended that site selection should not proceed until broad public acceptance of a nuclear fuel waste management approach were achieved. As part of a plan for gaining public acceptance, the panel

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Page 53 recommended developing options besides geological disposal and developing an ethical and social framework against which these options could be assessed. One response to public concerns has been designing the repository for long-term retrievability, which was not originally planned. Low-level waste (LLW) in Canada presently is stored in the Port Hope area, at the Bruce nuclear power plant (NPP) and at the Chalk River Laboratories. A variety of options for developing near-surface disposal facilities for these wastes is being considered. China China has one candidate site for a deep geological repository, the Beishan site located in the Gobi desert in the Gansu Province in northwest China. The repository would be in granite beneath the water table. China intends to begin its process to license the site and design a repository in 2020 and to begin disposing of waste in 2040. The Chinese government is beginning a program to increase its nuclear power generation significantly, and it is planning its waste disposal program coincident with this expansion. SNF is not considered a waste material in China. China's policy for HLW disposal is based on the following guidelines: SNF will be reprocessed. Vitrified waste will be the final waste form. Deep geological disposal will be used. Granite will be the host medium. The repository will be designed as a shaft tunnel in the saturated zone. Selection of the Beishan site resulted from an initial screening (1986– 1989) that identified 21 districts and a further screening of five sites in northwest China. Social as well as technical factors were used in the site selection. Preliminary site characterization of the Beishan site began in 1989 and will continue until about 2010. In July 2000, drilling of the first of two boreholes began. The plan is for one of the boreholes to be drilled vertically to a depth of 700 meters. The second will be drilled on an incline to a depth of 500 meters (Parizek et al., 2000). Finland Finland recently selected Olkiluoto as its candidate site for a geological repository. This decision was formalized by the government near the end of December 2000. This site was selected from among four sites (Kivetty, Loviisa, Olkiluoto, and Romuvaara) that were short-listed from an initial group of 102 potentially suitable sites identified in 1985.

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Page 54 SNF is considered to be a waste material, according to policy established in 1983. The policy also provides that a municipality in which a nuclear facility is proposed to be sited has the right to veto the proposal. Environmental impact assessments (EIAs) were begun in 1997 in the local municipalities of the four candidate sites. Discussion groups were set up, and results from the discussions were taken into account in the EIA process. SNF will be encapsulated using a two-canister system consisting of a steel (inner) and a copper (outer) canister; see Figure 4.1. Canisters will be placed in boreholes drilled in the floors of tunnels, which are to be constructed at a depth of about 500 meters in crystalline rock below the groundwater table. In the absence of a physically disruptive event, the copper canisters are expected to maintain their integrity for millions of years. Finland operates two repositories for its low- and intermediate-level waste. These are located in bedrock beneath the two nuclear power plant sites at Olkiluoto and Loviisa. The disposal zones are at depths ranging from about 60 to 110 meters. The two nuclear power plants also provide temporary storage of SNF. Finnish law prevents the import or export of radioactive waste for disposal. ~ enlarge ~ Figure 4-1. Scandinavian overpack design.

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Page 55 France France has not selected a candidate site for a HLW repository, although it has begun construction of a URL located at Bure (Meuse Haute-Marne) in eastern France. In 1990, public opposition led to a moratorium on repository site selection. Subsequently, the Waste Act of 1991 established a legislative framework for disposition of high-level and long-lived intermediate-level wastes and initiated a 15-year research program in three areas: 1. separation and transmutation of long-lived isotopes in waste, 2. disposition in deep geological formations (via URL tests), and 3. immobilization processes and long-term surface storage. The 1991 Waste Act shifted France's waste management emphasis from evaluating designated sites to creating a “responsible, democratic, and transparent” management process (Bataille, 1993). According to the 1991 Act, the government will submit an overall assessment of the three research areas to parliament by 2006. At the same time it will submit a draft law authorizing, if appropriate, the creation of a repository for high-level and long-lived wastes. A full debate in parliament must be held before the government can approve an application for the construction of a waste disposal site. Geological disposal must provide advantages over other options, in particular, separation and transmutation, and surface storage. Considerations of retrievability or reversibility must be included in repository design. The feasibility of SNF disposal in deep geological formations is also being studied. In France, SNF is not considered a waste material; rather, it is reprocessed at the La Hague plant, and plutonium is recycled in mixed-oxide fuel. Recently, the amount of SNF reprocessed has been limited to about 75 percent of its annual production so that the production of mixed-oxide fuel matches the amount required. SNF from other countries that have contractual agreements with France is also reprocessed at La Hague. These countries include Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. France has conducted extensive site characterization work during the last 10 years. The 1991 Waste Act specified creation of underground laboratories to conduct research on the geological disposition option. Initially, 30 candidate URL sites were selected, and four were short-listed; that is, local communities accepted that a surface reconnaissance program would be made. In 1996, three sites were presented to the government as potential sites for building URLs. In 1998, the government approved one site at the border of Meuse and Haute-Marne, and there France's first URL is now being constructed in a clay formation. The government also has required that a granite site be studied, since the 1991 Act requires that at

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Page 56 least two URLs be built. The selection process for this granite site in Brittany and central France is encountering strong local opposition because preliminary site selection did not include consulting potentially affected communities. See Chapter 8 for more detail. France disposes of its low-level and short-lived intermediate-level wastes in two surface facilities. The Centre de la Manche opened in 1969, was filled to its capacity of 526,000 m3 in mid-1994, and is now closed. The Centre de l'Aube has been in operation since 1992. Projects for repositories for very-low-level waste, graphite waste, and radium waste are under study. Germany Germany has two candidate sites for deep geological repositories. The abandoned Konrad iron ore mine is planned for the disposal of all types of radioactive waste with negligible heat generation, including alpha-bearing waste. The licensing procedure is nearly finished, and the license is expected to be issued within a year. The Gorleben salt dome has been under investigation since 1979 to determine its suitability to host a repository for all types of radioactive waste, in particular SNF and heat-generating HLW from reprocessing. The coalition parties of Germany's new government have concluded that the basic elements of the previous waste management concept have failed. A new national waste management plan will therefore be developed. A single repository in a deep geological formation is considered sufficient for the disposal of all types of radioactive waste including HLW and SNF. An expert group has been established to develop repository site selection procedures and criteria on a scientifically sound basis. The Gorleben site will be included in the site selection process. However, according to the June 14, 2000, agreement between the federal government and the utilities, underground investigations at Gorleben will be interrupted for 3 to 10 years to clarify conceptual and safety-related issues (e.g., retrievability and human intrusion). The new federal government's policy foresees the start of operation of a repository at the selected site around 2030. Political considerations have also affected the Konrad repository project. The June 14, 2000, agreement addresses only the completion of the licensing procedure. The decision actually to use the abandoned iron ore mine as a low- and intermediate-level waste repository remains open. SNF from Germany's light-water reactors has been reprocessed in France and Great Britain since the 1970s. During the Soviet era, SNF from East German power plants was reprocessed in Russia. In 1985, the federal government stated that in addition to reprocessing, methods for direct disposal of SNF should be developed. Since 1994, direct disposal

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Page 57 of spent fuel has been legally equivalent to reprocessing, and the aforementioned agreement of June 14, 2000, gives priority to direct disposal. Germany has interim storage capacity for spent fuel in storage pools at its nuclear power plants and at four centralized dry storage facilities. Nuclear power plants at Greifswald and Rheinsberg, in former East Germany, were closed in 1991 because they did not meet Western safety standards. About 5000 spent fuel elements from these reactors are stored in a newly constructed storage facility at Greifswald. Another centralized storage facility is located at Gorleben. Shipments of spent fuel were stopped in Germany in 1998 because of surface contamination on transport casks and vehicles. It is expected that shipments will resume during 2001. To minimize spent fuel transport in the future, the new government is pursuing the concept of on-site dry interim storage facilities. Licensing procedures already have been initiated. Germany has disposed of low- and intermediate-level waste at the two former salt mines, Asse in former West Germany and Morsleben in former East Germany. Waste disposal at Asse began in 1967 and ended in 1978. First emplacement in the Morsleben repository began in 1971. Emplacement was suspended in 1998, pursuant to an administrative court ruling. It will not be resumed. The current licensing procedure for closing this repository is expected to last several years. Japan Japan has not selected a candidate site for a deep geological repository. The long-term program of geological disposal has been directed by the Atomic Energy Commission of Japan. Under the program, an implementing body for HLW disposal, known as the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO), was established in 2000. Its responsibility will be to screen and propose potential sites, perform site characterization, oversee construction, and seek a license with the intent of starting repository operations before 2040. As leader of the current R&D program for geological disposal, the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC) recently published its second progress report (JNC, 2000). The law for the final disposal of HLW, which was promulgated in June 2000, gives guidelines for implementing geological disposal. The guidelines cover the administrative roles of the government, a stepwise site selection procedure, establishment of the implementing body, and a funding system. Japan does not consider SNF to be a waste material. The JNC reprocesses a small portion of SNF at its Tokai plant, and resulting HLW is vitrified and stored at its Tokai Vitrification Technology Development Facility. Utility companies have long-term contracts with reprocessing companies in France and the United Kingdom. Vitrified HLW returned

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Page 58 from overseas reprocessors is stored at the HLW Management Facility at Rokkasho-mura. Japan's first commercial reprocessing plant is under construction at this same site and is scheduled to begin operation in 2005. Japan is a relatively small country geographically, and it is subject to frequent earthquakes and active volcanism. Nevertheless, the government and industries consider that siting a geological repository within the country is necessary for secure implementation of the nuclear program, which produces more than one-third of the nation's electricity. The results of site evaluation studies are expected to identify geologically stable areas that are suitable for a repository (JNC, 2000). A small-scale URL in crystalline rock near Mizunami City has been a major component of Japan's geoscientific research program since 1995. Construction of a second URL in a sedimentary formation near Horonobe is also being considered by the government. Japan is investigating the option of partitioning and transmutation as well. LLW is disposed in near-surface facilities. LLW from nuclear power production is disposed at Rokkasho-mura, and some very-low-level waste from decommissioning a research reactor is disposed at Tokai-mura. Netherlands The Dutch currently have no candidate site for a geological repository. Low- and intermediate-level waste is stored at a central site near Borssele. The site also will be used for treatment and storage of HLW. This follows the 1984 Dutch policy decision on radioactive waste, which included long-term storage (100 years) of all radioactive waste produced in the Netherlands, and research into the possibility of final disposal of this waste. The Dutch do not consider SNF to be a waste. This material will be reprocessed in France and the United Kingdom, with the resulting HLW returned to the Netherlands starting in 2003. A naturally cooled storage vault is being built for this HLW. Initial research for disposal in salt formations in the Netherlands has been completed. A broader research program that includes retrievability studies is in progress. Recently, public concerns have eroded political support for disposal and increased support for storage (NEA, 1999a). The Dutch are also conducting research on partitioning and transmutation. Russia Russia has identified two candidate sites for deep repositories close to its former defense materials production plants: near the Mayak site in the southern Urals and in the Krasnoyarsk region. Studies are also in progress

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Page 59 to identify a site on the Kola Peninsula, and similar studies are planned for the Vladivostok region. Russia is thus taking steps to establish four geological repositories for its HLW and SNF. SNF is not considered a waste material. Russia formerly reprocessed large amounts of SNF in its defense programs. The country is now following the concept of a “delayed” closed fuel cycle in which SNF is stored for future reprocessing and use in advanced fast breeder reactors. Direct disposal of some spent fuel is being considered. HLW from reprocessing is being vitrified at Mayak. In 1995, Russia began a 10-year federal program entitled “Management of radioactive waste and SNF: Their utilization and disposal” (IAEA, 1995a). The program was initiated by the President of the Russian Federation on the basis of proposals made by industries, ministries, institutions, and citizens. The program covers all aspects of radioactive waste management. Priority items related to HLW and SNF include the following: reconstruction and new construction at nuclear power plant sites of storage facilities for SNF, some of which are out of compliance with current standards; development of technologies and equipment for containerizing SNF for long-term storage and disposal; construction of a URL for pilot-scale disposal of waste from Mayak; and construction of the first stage of the regional storage facility for waste produced at the mining and chemical complex in the Krasnoyarsk region. Low- and intermediate-level liquid waste is disposed by direct injection into deep geological formations. Some 5 million cubic meters containing a total of about 250 million curies (corrected for decay to 1995) have been disposed by this method at the Krasnoyarsk deep-well injection site. The waste appears to have been contained between geological strata as intended (Parker et al., 1999, 2000). However, the approach is being phased out because it is not considered in line with better practices that include solidifying and packaging the waste (IAEA, 1995a). Spain Spain has no candidate site for a geological repository. An earlier siting program was canceled due to public concerns (NEA, 1999a). The current policy includes the following: short-term storage of SNF at reactor sites, intermediate-term storage at a centralized facility yet to be built, and eventual disposal in a geological repository.

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Page 60 Spain maintains the once-through strategy for SNF; hence it considers SNF to be a waste material. Current research for SNF management includes international collaboration in studies of partitioning and transmutation as well as geological disposal. Upon completion of this research in 2010, Spain intends to reassess the options for final disposition of its HLW and SNF. Spain disposes of its low- and intermediate-level waste at El Cabril, a shallow land repository with engineered barriers, in reinforced concrete containers. At the end of 1998, about 2500 containers, each with a volume of approximately 11 m3, were emplaced at El Cabril. Sweden Sweden has no designated site for a geological repository. It has embarked on a stepwise process to designate a site, and the feasibility of siting has been investigated in eight municipalities. These studies were done only with the consent of the local population and include investigations of geology, land use, infrastructure, and societal aspects. Both the implementing organization, the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB), and the Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate (SKI) have been active in providing public information and in assuring that the site environmental impact assessment is an open, broad-based process. Responsibility for radioactive waste management is divided between implementing and regulatory authorities as follows: the waste generators (e.g., the nuclear power producers and SKB) are responsible for waste management and disposal; the waste generator is responsible for funding the future costs of final disposal and decommissioning of NPPs; and every third year the waste generator must submit an R&D program on SNF disposal and decommissioning of NPPs (SKI reviews and recommends and the government decides). SKB recently announced selection of the municipalities of Oskarshamn, Östhammar, and Tierp for underground site investigations. The program also includes further siting studies in Nyköping. After these proposals are reviewed by appropriate authorities, the Swedish government must approve the selections. Finally, the municipalities themselves must decide on whether to accept a site investigation, which could begin early in 2002. Following a national referendum in 1980, Sweden decided to phase out its nuclear power—a process expected to take until about 2020. Accordingly, spent nuclear fuel is considered to be a waste in Sweden. SNF is stored at the Swedish Central Interim Storage Facility for Spent Fuel (CLAB) near Oskarshamn, on the Swedish East Coast. The residents of

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Page 61 Oskarshamn were involved in licensing the CLAB and in site studies there. After an interim storage period of 30–50 years, Sweden intends to dispose of its SNF in a granitic bedrock at a depth of about 500 meters. The fuel elements will be placed in a two-canister system that includes an iron (inner) and a welded copper (outer) canister; see Figure 4.1 . Swedish environmental law has also required that SKB study the consequences of not receiving permission to dispose of the waste as planned. This study showed that extending the storage period at the CLAB for at least a hundred years would be possible, provided that control and maintenance continue for this period. The study found that with present rates of interest, it is not probable that a substantial delay of the program would require increased funding. Nevertheless, the position of the Swedish government is that there is a need to make progress in the waste management program and not to wait in the hope that future developments would provide better solutions. In 1977, Sweden established a URL at Stripa in an iron mine, which had been excavated in a granite formation. This URL was the focus of much international research until its closing in 1992. Work began in 1986 to replace Stripa with another URL, the Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory near Oskarshamn. The facility includes an underground tunnel 3600 meters long that reaches a depth of 450 meters. Twelve organizations from nine countries, including Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, are participating in the Äspö project. Sweden disposes of its low- and short lived intermediate-level waste at its Final Repository for Radioactive Operations Waste (SFR) located near Forsmark at a depth of approximately 50 meters. The SFR has been operating since 1988. Switzerland Switzerland has one candidate site for a geological repository for its low- and intermediate-level waste, Wellenburg in the Canton of Nidwalden. A license application was submitted in 1994 but suspended in 1997 after citizens of the canton refused in a referendum to concede to the use of the site for a repository for low- and intermediate-level wastes. In response to the citizens' concerns, the implementation approach and repository design were modified to include increased public involvement in decision making through a stepwise decision process in which the initial approval would be only for an exploratory tunnel, and enhanced monitoring and simplified retrievability during a preclosure phase.

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Page 62 The inventory for a high-level waste repository will include SNF as well as vitrified HLW and transuranic waste from reprocessing. Two host rock options are being considered for geological disposal of this inventory: crystalline bedrock and clay. In either case, waste would be emplaced below the groundwater table. The next project milestone is the preparation of documentation to demonstrate disposal feasibility (including siting feasibility) in 2002; start of disposal operations is planned around 2050. Swiss policy also includes the option of disposing of this waste within the framework of a multinational cooperative project. Switzerland has two URLs, one for each host rock option: the Grimsel test site in crystalline rock, operated by Nagra with strong international participation, and the international Mt. Terri rock laboratory in Opalinus clay, sponsored by the Swiss National Hydrogeological and Geological Survey. Until repositories become available, all categories of radioactive waste are in interim storage. Storage locations include the nuclear reactor sites and a central facility for medical, industrial, and research waste located near Würenlingen. A central facility for SNF and HLW returned from reprocessing is under construction, also near Würenlingen. In connection with revision of the Nuclear Energy Law, in mid-1999, an expert group was established by the Swiss federal government to assess the different long-term waste management options. This expert group did provide conclusions and recommendations, including the following: Geological disposal is the only method for isolating radioactive waste that fulfills the requirement for long-term safety (on the order of 100,000 years). Social demands concerning waste disposal are oriented toward the principle of reversibility, and therefore, the concept of actively-managed monitored long-term geological disposal is proposed. Geological disposal taking into account the concept of actively managed monitored geological disposal for all waste types should be foreseen in Swiss legislation. United Kingdom There is no candidate site for a geological repository in the United Kingdom. Thus far, siting efforts have been aimed at disposing of long-lived intermediate-level waste, which falls under the responsibility of United Kingdom Nirex Limited—a company founded by the nuclear industry with the support of the government. An early program to establish a single deep site for this waste was abandoned in 1985 following public protests. After an extensive public consultation process, another site selection process led to investigations at two existing nuclear sites, Sellafield and

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Page 63 Dounreay, with Sellafield designated the preferred site in 1991. In 1995, Nirex applied for permission to excavate a URL at Sellafield, but the application was denied by the local planning authority and the denial upheld by the Secretary of State for the Environment after Nirex's appeal was heard at a public inquiry. This failure prompted an inquiry by the House of Lords, which published the results of its public hearings (House of Lords, 1999). Some of the key recommendations resulting from the inquiry were to establish a board to set criteria for selecting disposal sites, to engage the public in decision making, and to recognize uncertainty as an integral part of science and technology (Tombs, 1999). SNF is not considered a waste material in the United Kingdom. SNF from the U.K. Magnox 3 reactors and some SNF from advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGR) are reprocessed at Sellafield. Magnox SNF cannot be stored for very long after removal from the reactor, so it is systematically reprocessed. SNF from prototype fast reactors has been reprocessed at Dounreay. The primary waste from reprocessing is vitrified, and the vitrified HLW is stored for cooling for at least 50 years. SNF from the U.K. Sizewell B pressurized water reactor is stored at the reactor site, and AGR fuel not currently designated for reprocessing is stored at the Sellafield site. HLW disposition is the responsibility of the U.K. government. Sellafield also reprocesses foreign SNF on a contract basis. HLW from this reprocessing is vitrified and returned to the country of origin. The United Kingdom has disposed of its LLW at two shallow land sites, Drigg and Dounreay, since the late 1950s. The total volume is approaching a million cubic meters, about 95 percent of which is disposed at Drigg. Investigations for a further disposal site for LLW and operational ILW were undertaken by Nirex during 1986 and 1987. However, this program was canceled when Nirex determined that a single deep facility for all ILW and LLW would be more cost-effective. United States The United States has one candidate site for a deep geological repository for HLW and SNF, and it has one deep geological repository for transuranic waste in operation (see Sidebar 4.1 ). For HLW and SNF, the candidate site is Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The U.S. Congress limited site characterization to this single site in the 1987 Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act. Previously, the Department of Energy (DOE), the organization responsible for implementing waste management, had identified several potential sites, including Yucca Mountain; Deaf Smith County, Texas; and Hanford, Washington. 3 Magnox refers to the magnesium alloy in the cladding material of the fuels used in these gas-cooled reactors.

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Page 64 The United States considers commercial SNF to be a waste material. Currently, most commercial SNF is stored at reactor sites in pools and, increasingly, in dry storage casks (NWTRB, 1996). In addition, it is expected that HLW and SNF stored at DOE defense sites will eventually be stabilized and disposed in a geological repository. The DOE Savannah River Site is currently vitrifying its HLW. Some weapons-grade plutonium in excess of defense needs will be declared as waste and co-disposed along with vitrified HLW from the Savannah River Site. The United States began considering geological disposal of HLW in 1957, after the National Research Council recommended salt deposits as potentially suitable for this purpose. Investigation of a salt formation near Lyons, Kansas, disclosed technical problems that resulted in rejection of the site. Attention shifted to monitored, retrievable (“away from reactor”) storage while a final disposal solution was being developed. The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act established a process for siting, developing, licensing, and constructing a geological repository. It also placed primary responsibility for SNF storage on its producers—DOE defense sites and commercial nuclear power plants. At that time geological disposal was expected to be available in 1998. In 1995, however, DOE projected that a repository probably would not be developed until 2010. DOE completed a viability assessment of its Yucca Mountain site in 1998. Since then DOE has made substantial progress in characterizing Yucca Mountain. DOE believes that it remains a promising site and that work should proceed toward a decision on whether to recommend the site to the President of the United States. If the site is recommended for development as a repository site, then a final environmental impact statement will accompany the site recommendation. If Yucca Mountain is subsequently designated as the repository site, then a license application for construction authorization by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be developed. Under current plans, waste acceptance at the repository could begin in 2010. LLW is disposed in shallow land facilities at several locations in the United States. Most commercial LLW is shipped to Barnwell, South Carolina. Envirocare in Utah receives very-low-level waste, for example, from facility decommissioning. LLW from defense programs has been disposed generally at the DOE site where it was produced, primarily Hanford, the Savannah River Site, and the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. CONCLUSIONS The national program summaries in this chapter illustrate the worldwide effort devoted—as yet without success—to finding acceptable sites for geological disposal of HLW and the portions of SNF that are consid-

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Page 65 Sidebar 4.1 The U. S. Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: A Unique Geological Repository The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is a deep geological repository for disposition of U.S. defense-generated transuranic waste (TRU), primarily contaminated clothing, tools, equipment, and debris resulting from the manufacture of nuclear weapons and cleanup of weapons production sites. WIPP has sufficient planned capacity to accommodate the entire inventory of U.S. defense TRU waste—estimated to be about 175,000 m3 by volume and having a total activity of about 7 million curies, primarily from the roughly 13 mt of plutonium that is estimated to be contained in the waste (NRC, 1998, 2000b). The WIPP site is located in the semiarid desert of southeastern New Mexico. The repository consists of mined shafts, tunnels, and waste disposal rooms in 250-million-year-old bedded salt about 650 meters beneath the land surface. WIPP opened in 1999 and is currently receiving a few shipments of waste per week from several weapons production sites. The waste is being shipped in boxes and 55-gallon drums for direct emplacement in the repository. Once the repository is filled with waste, the access tunnels and shafts will be backfilled to the surface and permanently sealed. The repository is expected to receive waste until about 2035. WIPP is the world's first specially constructed deep geologic repository for long-lived radioactive waste, and its establishment is the result of almost four decades of scientific and technical work, beginning with the investigation of a potential site near Lyons, Kansas, by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in the 1960s. The WIPP site was first identified in 1975, and in 1979, it was designated by the U.S. Congress as a research and development facility for demonstrating the safe disposal of radioactive waste. During the next two decades, the U.S. government conducted an extensive program of scientific and technical investigations to assess the suitability of the site. These investigations culminated in 1996 with an application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for certification to open the repository. Certification was granted in 1998. The success of WIPP probably can be attributed to the following factors: The WIPP site proved to be a very suitable host for a TRU repository. It is located in a sparsely populated, semiarid region with little potable groundwater, and the bedded salt matrix is expected to provide an effective long-term barrier to the migration of transuranic radionuclides. From its beginning, the WIPP project had strong programmatic and scientific leadership. There was (and continues to be) public support for WIPP in communities near the repository and in New Mexico generally, probably for three reasons. First, the WIPP project provides jobs and economic development opportunities. DOE and the community both benefited from working cooperatively. Second, there is a long history of involvement of New Mexico in national defense activities—Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory are two of New Mexico's largest employers—and the WIPP project is viewed by many citizens as a legitimate national defense activity because it provides a solution to the defense transuranic waste problem. Third, no commercial waste is to be sent to WIPP. The WIPP project has been subjected to intense external scientific and technical reviews during most of its history. Beginning in 1978, the U.S. government provided funding to the state of New Mexico's Environmental Evaluation Group and the U.S. National Academies to conduct independent technical evaluations of

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Page 66 various aspects of the WIPP project. The U.S. government also requested a peer review of the WIPP performance assessment from an expert committee under the auspices of the Nuclear Energy Agency and International Atomic Energy Agency. These reviews have improved the WIPP program and increased its credibility. The compliance certification process was carried out transparently according to rules agreed on in advance by all participants. Defense transuranic waste has a relatively low radionuclide content and produces relatively little heat.Consequently, there is expected to be little thermal energy generated in the repository to promote processes that could lead to the loss of containment. The engineered barrier system was modified to respond to technical concerns identified during the performance assessment studies (e.g., backfilling materials were introduced). Although some of these factors are site or waste specific, there are lessons from the WIPP program that can be applied to other repository siting efforts—most notably, the importance of choosing a suitable site; allowing sufficient time to undertake the scientific and technical investigations necessary to demonstrate its suitability; and obtaining external, independent scientific and technical reviews of these investigatory efforts. These factors are discussed in more detail in Chapter 6 and Chapter 8 . ered waste. Nevertheless, national programs have made measurable progress. The reasons this progress has been slower than foreseen in most countries include the following: The development and acceptance of disposal technology has proved less straightforward than expected. The technical issues associated with site selection and, more particularly, site characterization are more complex than assumed earlier. The sociological and political problems raised by disposal projects were greatly underestimated. The siting of centralized interim waste storage facilities has also encountered opposition, even though storage is a well-established technology that maintains options for monitoring and retrieval. Several countries, including Finland, Germany, Japan, Sweden, and Switzerland, have succeeded in siting centralized facilities while the United States, for example, has not. Despite the lack of successes in siting geological repositories, there remains within national programs the general consensus that geological disposal is the only feasible, permanent solution to the HLW problem. There is also a general recognition, however, that technical answers alone are inadequate for deciding societal issues.