Saturday

4th Feb 2023

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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."

Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'

The European Central Bank raised interest rates by another 0.5 percent to a 14-year high, and expects to hike rates by another half percent in March. But what does that mean for the green transition?

Polish backpedal on windfarms put EU funds at risk

Draft legislation in Poland aimed at relaxing some of Europe's strictest laws surrounding onshore wind-turbines has been derailed by a surprise last minute amendment, which could put Poland back on a collision course with the EU.

Opinion

More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies

Industrial energy-intense sectors, outside Germany and France, will not move to the US. They will go bust, as they cannot compete in a fragmented single market. So to save industry in two member states, we will kill the rest?

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us