Staging from an International Perspective
This appendix first examines how the various attributes the committee has used to characterize Adaptive Staging have been reflected in national disposal programs around the world. It can be shown that many of the individual attributes describe the work undertaken in different countries. Nevertheless, there have been numerous setbacks experienced by national programs. The second part of the appendix examines these negative outcomes and assesses whether the situation might have been different with full use of the Adaptive Staging approach.
D.1 The characteristics of Adaptive Staging and their application in national programs
From the beginning it has been apparent that geologic disposal must be implemented in a phased manner. Early guidance in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) publication series, for example, noted the list of phases or steps recommended for implementation, with particular emphasis on the siting process itself. Proceeding in stages toward final operation and closure of a deep repository, as recommended in this report, is a concept with a long history (IAEA, 1994).
The iterative use of performance assessments or safety analyses to guide the staging process is also a concept with a long history. Again, guidance documents from international organizations such as the IAEA and the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) illustrate this well. In the United States, iterative total-system-performance analyses (TSPA’s) became a working tool later than in some European programs. TSPA played an important role in both the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and the Yucca Mountain programs.
As is emphasized in this report the entire repository development program should be advanced in a system with a strong safety culture. The overriding concern is to ensure adequate safety throughout, from short-term operations through to the very long-term post-closure phase. The following section provides an outline of how this attention to safety issues has influenced national repository programs.
D.1.1 The overarching goal-ensuring safety
The principle is that options should be chosen with a high weighting on increasing repository safety and enhancing confidence in the safety case. The former aspect has always been emphasized—or even overemphasized—in national programs; the importance of the latter (confidence in the safety case) of this requirement was, however, initially underestimated.
Extensive lists of safety-oriented geologic siting criteria were produced (e.g., in 10 CFR Part 60). In France, site-screening criteria before 1991 covered purely geologic safety aspects. Japan started by looking only at the selection of rock types suited to providing safety. The relatively similar rock types available in Sweden and Finland meant that these national programs could focus earlier on other criteria determining the suitability of a site. Despite being based on similarly very old and very extensive crystalline rock formations, this factor did not play the same role in the Canadian program. Canadian government experts, in the major review of the generic phase of a multiyear program, concluded that technical safety alone was insufficient and that demonstration of confidence in safety was equally important.
The importance of being able to demonstrate repository safety also become clear in other programs in which siting choices were sometimes made that led to selection of candidate sites with complex geology or were difficult to investigate. One example was in Switzerland, where the three candidate sites originally chosen for geologic disposal of low and intermediate-level waste (L/ILW) were in complex, high-topography, pre-Alpine regions. This was, in large measure, because the selection process put a high premium on the availability of existing geologic data and little weight on the ease of understanding the site and its behavior. In the United Kingdom, the Sellafield site was selected largely on economic grounds, with the assumption that demonstrating safety would be an easily solved problem (Dodgson et al., 2001). This assumption led to increasing problems culminating in the failure of the Nuclear Industry Radioactive Waste Executive (NIREX) program at the U.K. public hearings in 1995. In France, the government scientific review group, the Commission Nationale d’Evaluation (CNE), blocked plans to investigate a proposed granite site because the structures were thought to be too complex for reliable characterization.
In the design of engineered barrier systems (EBS), the advantages of simple, easily understood systems that could enhance confidence were not immediately recognized. The Swedish program, with its choice of a canister made from the natural, thermodynamically stable material, copper, and a surrounding buffer of naturally-occurring bentonite clay (Lundqvist, 2001), was a leader in stressing this respect. Designs for engineered barrier systems using complex, multilayer containers, sometimes with inclusion of tailored components enhancing retention of specific radionuclides, have been proposed but have not become the reference choice in major programs. The very simple, rather idealized reference designs are, however, being reviewed as implementation approaches to ensure that they are practicable and allow safe quality-assured remote handling during emplacement.
As national disposal programs have moved ahead, there has not only been a growing realization of the importance of confidence in safety, there has also been increasing acknowledgement that residual uncertainties will remain and that decisions must be made in the face of these uncertainties (NEA, 1999). Performance assessment was recognized by the technical community as a valuable tool for examining the level of safety and its uncertainty. After a period of emphasis on the quantitative results of analyses, the concept of a safety case that includes broader evidence of the reliability of safety estimates was widely adopted in repository programs worldwide. In many programs (e.g., Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Japan, and the United States), iterative performance assessments and/or reviews of the broad safety case have become a standard input to decisions in a staged repository development.
There is a long history of safety-case-driven stepwise procedures leading toward geologic disposal. Where, then, do the proposals of the committee for Adaptive Staging differ from what has been happening? The commonalities and differences can be illustrated by considering the attributes of Adaptive Staging as described by the committee:
commitment to systematic learning;
flexibility, including reversibility;
auditability, transparency, integrity; and
D.1.2 Commitment to systematic learning
All major projects must expect to adapt to new knowledge as they advance. The characteristic of Adaptive Staging is that this process is encouraged and, as far as possible, planned in advance. To achieve this, active measures must be taken to seek new knowledge, and an organizational culture must be established that is open to new information and is prepared to act on it. To gather new data and increase understanding, almost all repository programs begin with a research and development program. In some cases (e.g., in the United States, Sweden, Canada, France) a broad program began early. Some other, often smaller countries (e.g. Switzerland, Belgium, and Finland) also began early, but they tried to select research and development that complemented rather than duplicated other efforts. Perhaps the greatest omission in all cases was caused by the concentration on pure technical issues and the underestimation of the need for parallel efforts in the social sciences.
At a more project-specific level, various countries recognized early the potential of underground test facilities to encourage systematic learning. The pioneering underground research laboratories were in Sweden (Stripa and, later, Aspo), Switzerland (Grimsel), Belgium (Mol), and Canada (Whiteshell). Other countries, such as France (Fanay Augere), the U.S. (Climax), and Japan (Tono and Kamaishi), followed suit. Some countries (e.g., Spain and the United Kingdom) failed to get the public acceptance needed for implementing an underground research laboratory. Many of the laboratories developed into international research facilities allowing collaboration among scientists from different nations. The U.S. Climax facility was closed, but the geologic repository at WIPP is encouraging others to participate in joint research projects.
In the area of site selection and characterization, effort has gone into planning how best to systematically acquire the knowledge needed to choose suitable sites and to understand their characteristics; and have attempted a process of narrowing lists of candidate sites to the most promising sites; most programs have a staged site-investigation process, which uses earlier findings to shape later studies. A few nations have attempted to omit this phase or to shorten it for cost reasons. This has inevitably led to controversy. For example, Germany chose the Gorleben site without a transparent justification. The United States and the United Kingdom short circuited a planned high-level waste selection process based on comparing results from more than one site and moved directly to a single preferred option (Yucca Mountain and Sellafield, respectively).
As information-gathering tools further the way toward realization of geologic repositories, the value of pilot facilities at the chosen site has been recognized in some programs. Sweden was the first country to propose a reversible pilot disposal phase; Switzerland has also proposed a pilot stage. The French program is undertaking underground investigations, currently at one potential deep disposal site and possibly at two, which will likely lead to pilot studies for disposal.
Belatedly, some countries have realized the importance of encouraging a parallel learning process in the social sciences. Following the dramatic failure of the technocratically managed Sellafield disposal project, the British government moved to the other extreme and launched an extremely wide and lenghty public consultation process. Similarly in Canada the total collapse of a 15-year technical program intended to lead to a decision for progressing from a generic to a site-specific phase has led to almost all emphasis shifting to the societal problems associated with disposal projects. In both cases, there has been a clear stepping back from the commitment to find a geologic disposal solution and a political readiness to question all previous decisions. It can, however, be asked how much of this openness is attributable to proposed approaches that may also lead to long non-controversial discussion phases that cause little discomfort to politicians.
The above summary illustrates the many strategic choices that have been made and the specific projects implemented with the goal of encouraging systematic learning about the repository system. There is less agreement on whether repository implementers have shown sufficient readiness to act with enough flexibility on new information gained. The question of whether an open mind has been kept, with all possible future options being reviewed in light of the knowledge gained, or whether implementers seek a minimum “technical fix” that will enable them to avoid radical change or even reversal, remains open for discussion.
D.1.3 Flexibility with multiple choices, including reversal
The reversal attribute has grown enormously in importance over the past several years. Geologic disposal has been tacitly acknowledged to be reversible for very long times, given sufficient available time and resources. The United States had at an early stage of its program a requirement for retrievability (see Appendix F). However, explicit demand for demonstration of reversibility in general and retrievability of emplaced wastes, in particular, has increased. Several nations have reversibility or retrievability over long or indefinite times built into their legal or regulatory framework (e.g., France, Finland, United States, Switzerland, and the Netherlands). In recent years major international meetings have been devoted to the topic, and international bodies have published documents on the subject of retrievability (Euratom, 2000; KASAM, 2000; NEA, 1995).
The main reason for the increased emphasis on reversibility has been that the technical community is listening to societal demands more closely. Originally the tendency was for the technical experts to argue that disposal would be implemented only if performance assessments had demonstrated such a high-level of confidence that the need for retrieval was inconceivable (see for instance IAEA, 1995). This trust in the reliability of scientific analysis of long-term behavior was not, however, shared by the general public; hence, efforts to show that retrievability was indeed possible were increased. More fundamentally, the argument raised with increasing vigor was that retrievability should in any case be feasible in order to pre-
serve the ethical principle that future generations have retained freedom of choice to implement other actions (e. g., KASAM, 1988).
The specific technical issue of demonstrating that wastes can be retrieved has, thus, become a standard component of disposal planning, e.g., Svensk Karnbranslehantering (SKB), National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (NAGRA), NIREX—as exemplified in the Swedish National Council for Nuclear Waste (KASAM) report cited above. For spent fuel disposal, as opposed to vitrified high-level wastes, there have been arguments for keeping the option of retrieving the fuel as a future energy source. The broader question of whether all steps in repository implementation, including site selection, are sufficiently reversible is more controversial.
For the technical community it is evident that the process of selecting candidate sites for investigation must recognize that any site selected may subsequently prove to be unsuitable. For the public, and especially among the local population at a candidate site, there can be an understandable apprehension that abandonment of a site will become increasingly difficult for the implementer as more resources are expended on investigations. At the two most intensively studied candidate sites in the world, Gorleben in Germany and Yucca Mountain in the United States, opponents claim that despite some negative findings relative to early expectations, investments are so high that the sites will never be voluntarily abandoned.
There are few examples of the site selection being voluntarily reversed by the implementer. This may, of course, be due to early screening steps in a selection program that result in only potentially suitable sites being selected as candidates. A case of potential site being subsequently judged technically unsuitable is an earlier site for New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant cited in Sidebar F.1, Appendix F. There are, however, cases demonstrating that the siting decision can be reversed by the legal or regulatory system. The Sellafield public hearing in the United Kingdom and the abandonment in France of four sites before a law promulgated in 1991 and later of its first granite site provide illustrations. An illustration of a siting decision being reversed for societal rather than technical reasons is SKB in Sweden, which undertook to withdraw from selected potential siting areas if the local population were to express this wish in a consultative referendum. SKB did so in two cases, leading to an increase in public confidence in the Swedish siting process (Thegerström, 2000). Finland also voluntarily withdrew from a potential siting area at an early stage in its phased siting process.
The flexibility of the implementer to consider reversal of a siting step and the credibility of this option depends on alternative sites being available. This is a good argument for maintaining multiple siting options until there is sufficient consensus on the likely suitability of a single option to be chosen. The process in Finland is a positive example of this; up to, and even after, the selection of the site at Olkiluoto for a spent fuel repository, it was recognized that an alternative possibility at Loviisa remains. This contrasts with the situation in the United States and at Gorleben, where the perception became that there were no alternatives if the single option chosen were to prove unsuitable for any reason.
In addition to the reversibility and retrievability addressed above, the still broader Adaptive Staging attribute of flexibility is called for in this report. Flexibility means keeping options open and drawing lessons from earlier stages to improve later choices. How flexible are national waste management programs worldwide?
There has been an increase in the flexibility defining the goals for managing high-level waste and spent fuel. Twenty years ago, the universally accepted end
point was a closed and sealed deep repository requiring no further monitoring or control to maintain safety. Recently, original discussions of alternatives have been revived (IAEA, 1997). Some programs are looking at very long-term (indefinite) storage (e.g., France, United States, Canada, and the Netherlands), some at the potential of transmutation (e.g., United States, Sweden, and Japan), and some are re-examining exotic options such as space disposal (United Kingdom) that were first examined 30 years ago (BNWL, 1974). There are also countries, such as Japan and Switzerland, that have embedded their preference for geologic disposal into their most recent legislation.
At a more practical level, flexibility is an attribute directly related to the repository design. There are excellent examples of programs that have kept options open. The Swedish PASS project (SKB, 1992) examined a range of disposal techniques and layouts, including deep boreholes, hydraulic cage designs and mined repositories. In Finland alternatives were also studied (Autio et al., 1996). The follow-up Swedish project, called JADE, looked at variants of emplacement techniques in more detail (Sandstedt et al., 2001). Japanese and Swiss studies, although based on well-defined reference disposal concepts, also looked at alternative designs and alternative host rocks. In the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant program, alternative buffer materials have been proposed.
Procedures with flexibility to allow learning experiences to influence later stages in implementation have also been defined in some national programs. A practical example that has already been implemented is the WIPP facility, where the allowable inventory of waste types for disposal has been progressively expanded as experience is gained. In Sweden, a demonstration disposal facility for an initial part of the inventory was proposed. In Switzerland, the advisory group EKRA recommended early emplacement of some wastes in a highly monitored system in order to observe the behavior over decades (EKRA, 2000), a concept in agreement with much earlier proposals of NAGRA (1985). In France, the program foresees an extended phase of underground experimentation in rock laboratories at potential sites.
The time scales proposed in staged waste disposal programs must be sufficient to allow the earlier learning experience to feed into later stages. The tendency of all program schedules to underestimate the time needed to move through a staged program is evident from an examination of the slippage in virtually all national programs. Recently, more realism in timing has been apparent. Even so, the French 15-year period allocated for exploring options in their 1991 law is proving too short. Even if sufficient knowledge may be expected by 2006 on the feasibility of a reversible repository in clay in the Bure area, insufficient progress will be made for a second laboratory, the site of which is yet to be determined. The Swedish program allowed more time for completion of its siting phase. Even in the strictly scientific and engineering areas there has been increasing awareness of the lengthy periods needed in staged waste disposal. For example, Finland’s geologic program, one of the most advanced, acknowledges that underground exploration and repository development are phases that each last a decade or more. In general, most delays in planned schedules have resulted from underestimates of the societal challenges in the siting process.
In summary, the attribute of flexibility, including possible reversal, has been a feature of national disposal programs to varying degrees. The most contentious issues have not been over the degree of flexibility possible but the willingness of implementers to voluntarily reverse large steps (e.g., siting) and extending the time scales for completing stages and gaining experience for further work.
D.1.4 Auditability, transparency, and integrity
It is perhaps with regard to societal attributes that national waste management programs worldwide have been most criticized. The nuclear industry was born with a tradition of secrecy, and there was an unfortunate tendency for this to spill over into waste management programs. In the most controversial area, repository siting, examples are easily found. Even today, there is no open record of how the Gorleben site was selected in Germany in 1979 (IEG, 2001). In the United Kingdom, NIREX does not name the other sites that were considered along with Sellafield and Dounreay in its multi-attribute site-selection process (Dodgson et al., 2001). More positive examples are found in Sweden, Finland, the United States, and Switzerland, all of which have documented the sites considered throughout the progression of their programs.
Documenting the names of potential sites and the decision processes leading to narrowing the sites selection is less common. The United States published an extensive peer-reviewed, multi-attribute, analysis leading to the selection of three potential sites (DOE, 1986). The subsequent narrowing to a single candidate was, however, a policy decision made by the Congress and is obviously different from the decision mechanisms advocated in Adaptive Staging. The U.K. multi-attribute analysis refers to the sites only by number. In Switzerland, a more qualitative procedure was used and openly published to select one low/intermediate-level waste site from four candidates. Even so, recent independent auditing of the Swiss final choice of Wellenberg has produced criticism for a lack of transparency (KFW, 2002; NAGRA, 2001; Lambert, 1995).
At a deeper level, there is a question of transparency and auditability in the technical data produced and published by waste disposal organizations. Here the industry has a relatively good record. Many waste management organizations produce extensive report series documenting all their work. Technical audits are carried out within programs by experts and across programs by international groups often organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency. There have been criticisms of the availability of data, but a more common complaint of critics or opponents is that international groups lack the resources and expertise to evaluate the large amounts of data produced in disposal programs.
Many national programs have largely independent review bodies that enhance auditability. In the United States these include: the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, the Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste, and the Board on Radioactive Waste Management; in Sweden, KASAM; in France, the CNE; in the United Kingdom, the radioactive waste management advisory committee; in Switzerland, the KNE and the Wellenberg Group; in Japan, the nuclear waste advisory board (NSC), and in Finland, the advisory committee of the regulator (STUK).
A more common criticism of transparency in disposal organizations concerns not the availability of data but the access to the decision processes. In almost all countries, environmental groups believe that they have too little input to the decision process. Even within the general public, decisions all too often are seen as “decide, announce, defend” (DAD). Consulting the public before important decisions are made remains an exception rather than a rule. The U.K. siting process leading to the public enquiry where an open debate was held is a clear example of this. Although NIREX did start a consultation process and put considerable effort into it (NIREX, 1987), the initiative came too late, and in any case, political decisions led to the final choices. The negative outcome for the U.K. government has had such a
strong impact that the program has been set back decades and the government’s approach has radically changed to the extreme of consulting the public about how best the public should be consulted (DEFRA, 2001).
There are countries in which direct integration of the public into the process of repository development is guaranteed. This is sometimes through voluntary participation in siting processes (e.g., France, Sweden, Finland, and Japan), sometimes through public referenda (e.g., Switzerland and Sweden), and very often through organization of opportunities for public dialogue either with implementers or in the regulatory process (a good example being the USNRC rule-making process). The necessity for disposal organizations to focus on these societal issues, as well as the technical aspects of disposal is now documented and well recognized (NRC, 2001).
Responsiveness refers to the need for stages to be sufficiently long to allow new knowledge to be gained for further decision-making but sufficiently short to ensure regular, open decision-making. At a technical level, there are examples of time scales being too tight to allow proper responses to experience gained. In the Swiss exploration program, the deep boreholes drilled at different sites followed one another so closely in time that valuable opportunities for learning and optimization were minimized. As mentioned above, the 15-year period set in France is too short to allow feedback from a second set of underground rock laboratory experiments. Because repository implementation and disposal operations at a deep repository will run for decades, there are opportunities for learning. A sufficiently long pilot phase can be useful and has been planned in some programs. If excavation of disposal space is not done all at once, but in parallel with the multiyear emplacement program (as proposed in Switzerland and the United States), efforts toward optimization can continue throughout the operational phase.
D.2 Successes and setbacks in non-U.S. national repository programs
There is a growing international consensus that repository programs have a higher chance of success when they proceed in a staged manner (NEA, 2002a, 1999; EDRAM, 2002). The staging approaches described by NEA and EDRAM have commonalties with Adaptive Staging. This awareness of the potential advantages of staging has arisen in large part because of the setbacks that various national programs have suffered when trying to proceed without sufficient intermediate checkpoints (i.e., a staged approach was more Linear than Adaptive).
In this section, the committee first gives prominent examples of blockages in disposal programs and, second tries to identify which attributes of Adaptive Staging may have led to more success. This exercise is, of course, made much easier with the benefit of hindsight; in all cases mentioned, the situation was much more complex than indicated here, and other causes for problems encountered can also be identified.
D.2.1 Programs that have experienced setbacks
In recent years, the most conspicuous, extensive, and expensive setbacks in disposal programs outside the United States have been in the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, France, and Switzerland. These countries are especially noteworthy because in each case an active program enthusiastically promoted by the implementer was shortened by events that may have been less damaging if some or all of the attributes of Adaptive Staging had been applied. In all of these cases, many factors contributed to the course of events, a number of them political. It cannot be proven that the use of Adaptive Staging or any other approach would have made a difference. In some cases, decision makers put off difficult decisions because the potential benefits were local and not felt at levels (e.g., state, department, county, or canton) where the populations and political powers reside. In other cases, opposition to disposal projects was so entrenched that any approach was sure to encounter problems.
Disposal programs in countries not mentioned above have suffered setbacks that are less visible because the programs themselves were less active. A good recent overview of developments in many national programs is provided in Witherspoon and Bodvarsson (2001). Spain, for example, simply postponed for a decade all activities in its search for potential host sites when opposition became apparent (Astudillo, 2001). The Netherlands postponed all such work indefinitely; a 100-year interim storage facility was built, and the feasibility of extending this to 300 years is being investigated (Hageman and van de Vate, 2001). In Argentina, the cancellation in the early 1990s of the feasibility studies in high-level waste disposal and the abandonment of fieldwork were acknowledged as resulting from failure to integrate technical and societal aspects (Ninci et al., 2001). A brief example of the more dramatic failures in major programs in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Switzerland is presented below.
The United Kingdom applied for permission to construct an underground rock characterization facility at the Sellafield site, which was selected by the implementer (NIREX) after a multi-attribute utility analysis showed it to be the most suitable candidate (Dodgson et al., 2001). Following a long investigative process through a public inquiry, the inspector judging the application ruled that the preparations did not adequately satisfy environmental planning requirements and that there were insufficient data to justify the site selection. Although NIREX proposed a staged process with an underground laboratory preceding repository implementation, in practice, NIREX contradicted some important principles of Adaptive Staging.
For a long time there was little transparency in NIREX’s work. The site-selection process was done in private without the names of most alternative sites made public. NIREX was not prepared for an in-depth discussion of the impacts that a repository might have on the region, arguing that this was a debate that should be postponed until suitability was demonstrated. The local population did not agree. The nuclear regulatory authorities were excluded from consultation because the process was formally only for non-nuclear planning permission.
By the time of the public enquiry, NIREX had vastly improved its transparency and its public consultation processes, but regaining public trust continued to be a difficult and slow task. The result of the Sellafield enquiry was that the substantial funds that had been invested were lost and the national waste management program was set back for years, perhaps decades. The government reacted by pro-
posing such an extensive public consultation that no decisions to advance the project are expected within the next five years (DEFRA, 2001)
In Germany, the controversy around the Gorleben salt dome, selected as the only candidate host site in the 1970s, has led to a loss of money investment of the same magnitude as that lost in the United Kingdom. The debate over Gorleben is part of a larger technical and highly political national discussion involving two other issues: (1) how to proceed with the planned Konrad deep repository for non-heat-generating wastes and (2) how to proceed with the existing Morsleben salt repository in the former East Germany.
Gorleben was selected behind closed doors in Lower Saxony; even today no documentation on the justification for this decision is publicly available (IEG, 2001). Extensive exploration of the salt dome and its geologic setting showed that although no fatal flaws were identified in the site, it was less suitable than originally assumed. Objections to sites, however, are more often based on the selection approach than on assessment of their isolation potential. Much of the decades-long struggle between opponents and proponents has been caused by a lack of constructive interactions among the implementer and various stakeholders.
With respect to Adaptive Staging, recent objections focus on the remaining technical uncertainties and on assertions that the salt option offers too little possibility for retrieval. As a reaction to the dispute on the suitability of Gorleben, the German government imposed a moratorium on work at the site and set up a group, the Arbeitskreis Auswahlverfahren für Endlagerstandorte (AkEnd), charged with developing new siting criteria and a new approach to interacting with the German public on the siting issue. The proposals of AkEnd are closely allied with many of the principles of Adaptive Staging, with great emphasis being put on learning from advances in the technical area and in the social sciences. At the end of 2002, AkEnd will have completed its 3-year task of proposing a procedure for siting a safe geologic repository in Germany, taking into account technical and societal challenges (AkEnd, 2002).
In Canada, the financial repercussions of the major setback suffered in the national program in 1998 were less severe than those experienced in the United Kingdom and Germany (AkEnd, 2002). Financial commitments were lower in Canada, because no detailed site characterization had begun. The changes in approach to waste management, however, were even more fundamental. After a 16-year generic technical program, considered by many to be one of the most effective in the world, an extensive review took place to decide whether to move on to the siting phase.
The review panel, which included a minority of scientists, decided that although the technical basis for safety was good, there was insufficient public confidence in the safety (FEARO, 1998). The result was that the entire waste management program stopped, and the basic desirability of geologic disposal was called into question (Brown, 2000). Again, failure to integrate a wide range of stakeholder input into the process until too late was a key cause of the failure. The option of geologic disposal in deep crystalline rock was put to the public as the only alternative and was perceived by many to be chosen by an elite group of scientists and decision-makers.
In France and Switzerland the setbacks in the national programs have been serious but less fundamental, because they have not led to a total restructuring of programs or organizations. The French disposal implementer, the Agence Nationals pour la gestion des Déchets Radioactifs (ANDRA), was charged with identifying
from available geologic data new potential sites in crystalline rocks after a government review panel disapproved of the original choice in the Vienne department (CNE, 1998). When a government-appointed mission suggested new potential sites, local representatives refused contact or even repelled envoys with violence (Merceron, 2000). This contrasts greatly with ANDRA’s success in the potential siting area at Bure, where a shaft for an underground laboratory is under construction (Lebon et al., 2001). Bure, however, was a volunteer site with promising geology, and ANDRA also had good relationships with stakeholders.
The Swiss case provides a better example of setbacks that might have been avoided if the principles of Adaptive Staging had been applied. The Swiss disposal organizations, NAGRA and the Genossenschaft für nukleare Entsorgung Wellenberg (GNW), proposed the site of Wellenberg for a geologic repository in marl (a carbonate-rich clay) for low- and intermediate-level wastes. An application was submitted to start underground exploration that would lead to repository implementation, providing that expectations were confirmed. This application was turned down in a public referendum in 1995. The prime reasons, identified in later public polling (Kowalski and Fritschi, 2000), were that
more permitting stages should be proposed (the initial application should be for exploration only, followed by a further application stage if a repository were to be proposed);
more direct monitoring was desirable and waste should be more retrievable; and
criteria that exploration results must satisfy should be provided fully transparently.
Since the public referendum in 1995, repository concepts have been adapted to satisfy the above requirements, in addition to recommendations of a special independent committee, EKRA, set up by the government (Wildi et al., 2000). The EKRA report focuses on stepwise procedures that make use of pilot, test, and demonstration facilities to gain knowledge and increase confidence in system behavior.
In 2002, another referendum was held on a revised project in which enhanced control and retrievability were offered, only an exploratory tunnel permit was sought, specific exclusion criteria during exploration were proposed, and much wider public involvment was initiated. The results (57 percent against) were more negative than the 1995 results (52 percent against). This demonstrates how difficult it is to regain sufficient support after a loss. It also provides a sobering lesson that all approaches to repository implementation in a democratic system face major challenges. The proposed host community was the only one in the canton that voted in favor, illustrating the common “doughnut” effect in which even if a local host community is prepared to accept the burdens of a wider public, communities close enough to feel affected but too far to derive direct benefits may still object to a repository.
D.2.2 Non-U.S. programs that have experienced greater success
The most successful spent fuel management programs today are acknowledged to be those in Finland and Sweden (NEA, 2002b). In each country, complete pro-
grams have been developed (Vira, 2001; Lundqvist, 2001), involving lengthy interim storage, followed by encapsulation of waste in copper containers and disposal in crystalline bedrock surrounded by a bentonite backfill. More impressively, the interim storage facilities are operational, and underground investigations at potential disposal sites have been identified and agreed to by the local communities. In Finland even the national government has agreed to the chosen site at Olkiluoto. On the other hand Sweden’s “success” is qualified by two of the communities near the proposed sites vetoing the choice.
In the context of this report, it is noteworthy that both of these successful programs followed a staged site-selection process, both used underground rock laboratories as places for learning, and both placed great emphasis on continued direct contacts among personnel of the implementers, regulatory staff, and the public. Sweden, in particular, has been a leader in technology development with open access to its scientific work.
In Switzerland, notwithstanding the recent setback in the Wellenberg low-level waste project, significant successes have been achieved in the high-level waste program, in part by following some key principles of Adaptive Staging. The high-level waste disposal program was recognized to be transparent by regional, area, and local stakeholders. The siting process led to geologic investigations in a community that volunteered to offer a site for exploratory drilling (NAGRA, 2001). This process should lead to a major siting feasibility project. High-quality science, transparency, and encouragement of regular communications with all stakeholders have been continuously emphasized in the Swedish, Finnish, and Swiss programs.
An important caveat must be added before closing this brief account of program successes. Each of the examples given occurred in countries that have significantly different political systems, national cultures, and populations sufficiently small that maintaining contacts between implementers and stakeholders is a much simpler task. For instance, Sweden and Finland have incorporated in their programs, including the siting phase, many of the attributes of Adaptive Staging. It could still be, however, that the main reasons for success are simply cultural and political. These countries do not have a powerful state government to oppose national decisions. Where the implementers can deal directly with locals, they can often reach consensus. Although Adaptive Staging is a helpful approach, it is recognized that there are broader, largely political factors that must be taken into account.
In summary, meeting the criteria for Adaptive Staging does not guarantee success, but the committee believes that Adaptive Staging is a promising management approach because its attributes address many of the challenges facing high-level waste geologic repository programs, as discussed in Chapter 4 of this report.
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