Monday

29th Aug 2016

EU nuclear waste proposals include export ban

  • 14 EU states currently have nuclear power plants (Photo: Bigod)

New European Commission proposals will require EU member states to bury their radioactive waste deep underground, with overseas exports of the toxic byproduct also set to be banned.

The draft plans put forward by the EU executive on Wednesday (3 November) could pose a problem for countries that lack the suitable geological substrate for underground burial, while the export ban to non-EU countries may also run into government opposition.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger defended the draft rules as a necessary measure to enforce International Atomic Energy standards. "If an accident happens in one country, it can have devastating effects also in others," he told journalists in Brussels.

He added he was confident that member states would adopt the plans, despite former rejections of similar legislation.

"Today the acceptance is much higher than in the past," he said. "We don't want to export nuclear waste to third countries, frequently with lower safety standards. That cheap solution is out of the question."

Russia is one country that stands to lose from the new arrangement, if it gets the go-ahead from EU member states, with the importing of nuclear waste followed by burial in Siberia currently a lucrative business. A number of African countries have also expressed an interest in developing similar schemes.

EU exports are significantly down on earlier years however, with only Bulgaria still exporting spent fuel to Russia for reprocessing, an EU official said.

The new rules, whose legal basis is the 1957 Euratom treaty, will compel national governments to present detailed programmes within four years of their adoption, indicating when, where and how they will construct and manage final repositories for high-level spent fuel and radioactive waste.

While the EU currently has 143 nuclear power plants in 14 of the its 27 member states, no final repositories exist for the roughly 7,000 cubic meters of high-level waste produced each year. At present, only France, Sweden and Finland have plans to build the secure final resting places for the waste.

As a result, the majority of the toxic substance is kept in interim storages.

"Each member state will have its own timetable ... because of different appeal procedures," Mr Oettinger said, explaining why no fixed deadline for the building of the repositories is to be set.

Using another EU country's repository may also be an option. "The geological criteria we are setting may not exist in a particular member state, especially a small one, so we want co-operation [between states]," said the German politician, reserving the right to come forward with new draft rules in a few years time.

Environmental group Greenpeace slammed the new proposals, saying the commission was falsely exaggerating the safety of deep geological storage to support its nuclear energy agenda.

"This proposal is little more than a PR exercise to try and persuade Europeans that nuclear waste can be dealt with," said Greenpeace campaigner Jan Haverkamp in a statement. "There are gaps in the science and no [safe] disposal site currently exists, yet the Commission is claiming this is a proven method."

Mr Oettinger rebuffed the suggestion: "I've relied on the scientific experts," he said. "Renewable energy, not nuclear, is going to be the growth area in the future."

News in Brief

  1. Hungary plans to reinforce border fence against migrants
  2. France's highest court suspends burkini ban
  3. Greeks paid €1bn more in taxes in June
  4. Greek minister denounces EU letter on former statistics chief
  5. Turks seeking asylum in Greece may cause diplomatic row
  6. Merkel becomes digital resident of Estonia
  7. Report: VW will compensate US dealers with €1bln
  8. EU mulls making Google pay news media for content

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. GoogleBrussels - home of beer, fries, chocolate and Google’s Public Policy Team - follow @GoogleBrussels
  2. HuaweiSeeds for the Future Programme to Bring Students from 50 countries to China for Much-Needed ICT Training
  3. EFASpain is not a democratic state. EFA expresses its solidarity to Arnaldo Otegi and EH Bildu
  4. UNICEFBoko Haram Violence in Lake Chad Region Leaves Children Displaced and Trapped
  5. HuaweiMaking Cities Smarter and Safer
  6. GoogleHow Google Makes Connections More Secure For Users
  7. EGBAThe EU Court of Justice Confirms the Application of Proportionality in Assessing Gambling Laws
  8. World VisionThe EU and Member States Must Not Use Overseas Aid for Promoting EU Interests
  9. Dialogue PlatformInterview: "There is a witch hunt against the Gulen Movement in Turkey"
  10. ACCAACCA Calls for ‘Future Looking’ Integrated Reporting Culture With IIRC and IAAER
  11. EURidNominate Your Favourite .eu or .ею Website for the .EU Web Awards 2016 Today!
  12. Dialogue PlatformAn Interview on Gulen Movement & Recent Coup Attempt in Turkey