Nuclear waste management in the EU – Implementation of directive 2011/70/EURATOM Assessment report
|Author||G.Mraz, Patricia Lorenz|
|Classification||1.01.4.15/18 (WASTE - DIRECTIVE 2011/70/EURATOM)|
From the publication:
Summary Nuclear waste remains an unsolved and highly dangerous problem because it needs to be contained safely from the environment for one million years. In an attempt to solve the nuclear waste problem, an EU-wide regulation was introduced in 2011, the “Council Directive 2011/70/Euratom establishing a Community framework for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste”. This Directive tried to force EU member states to address the issue seriously, after this had been neglected for decades – thus immediately proving that nuclear waste has never been effectively dealt with. Since the Directive 2011/70/Euratom came into effect, the Joint Project – Nuclear Risk & Public Control is keeping a close watch on the implementation of the Nuclear Waste Directive. Members of Joint Project kept monitoring the implementation on national level and EU level and participated in Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA), organized events for the interested public and took part in discussion with European Commission representatives and the public at the Aarhus Round Table on Radioactive Waste Management in January 2021. The assessment report “Nuclear waste management in the EU. Implementation of Directive 2011/70/Euratom” presents the results gained the monitoring. Thanks to the Vienna Ombuds Office for Environmental Protection and the Cities for a Nuclear Free Europe the report was updated extensively. Until 2015 every member state had to develop a national programme for the management of nuclear waste; out of formerly 29 EU countries only three (Finland, Luxembourg, Slovakia) managed to implement this Directive, while all other countries faced infringement procedures. Even so, Finland has still not solved the issue of copper corrosion, Slovakia has not even started the search for a repository site and continues examining the export option; Luxembourg exports its nuclear waste to Belgium which also has not fulfilled the obligations of the Nuclear Waste Directive. The European Commission (EC) published two Nuclear Waste Directive implementation reports (2017, 2019; 2021 has not yet been published). In its 2019 implementation report the EC stated that progress has been made, but “[H]owever, more needs to be done” and presented a long list of necessary remedies to be delivered by the member states. The 2019 EC report did not show significant progress compared to the 2017 report, the key issues have not been solved. The EC listed the deficits and challenges it encountered in the member states’ nuclear waste programmes: Swift decisions on national policies, concepts and plans should be taken, especially for intermediate level waste and high-level waste. Member States that consider shared solutions should cluster up and take practical measures, including on site-specific matters. Member States must ensure sufficient funding for the costs of the national programmes. Classification schemes must be harmonized. Many member states’ reports delay the implementation of the programmes. Clear key performance indicators are needed for monitoring progress to avoid further delays. The inventory projections must be improved. The independence of the nuclear waste regulator must be demonstrated or established in the first place, including allocating sufficient financial and human resources. Outcomes of peer reviews and self-assessments should be shared, and a transparent dialogue with stakeholders is necessary. Research, development and training also remain important when it comes to delivering long- term solutions for intermediate level, high level waste and spent fuel management. Many Member States need to improve the quality of their national reports. The EC will follow up the work of the Member States and take legal action if necessary. Also unsolved: The ultimate responsibility for the spent fuel over very long time periods is not ensured, the post-closure period of deep geological repositories has not been addressed, repository site selection will take too long in some member states. As in the field of nuclear power plant safety, international cooperation and peer reviews take place for nuclear waste programmes, among them the IAEA ARTEMIS missions. Problems became visible in nearly all sectors that were assessed. Peer review results provide valuable information on shortcomings, but the public has no possibility to follow up if the recommendations and suggestions have been implemented, except to wait for a follow-up mission which might take place only years later: Country may or may not agree to making the mission’s result public. A very important topic is transparency. One of the newly introduced features of the Directive 2011/70/Euratom is article 10 (1) on transparency: “Member States shall ensure that necessary information on the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste be made available to workers and the general public.” The report shows that even from the European Commission’s side transparency has not been guaranteed throughout the process. The reasons for infringements procedure against member states’ implementations have not been made public, and national programmes and reports are published with significant delays or not at all. Transparency and public participation could be increased easily with an existing and tool, which is obligatory for plans and programs in the framework of the ESPOO Convention: the SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment), however, many countries chose to avoid this, the EC chose to not enforce an SEA. At the same time, participation in the decision-taking process is of uttermost importance for the public, and member states had to include measures for transparency and public participation in decision-taking in their national programmes in line with Art. 10. of the Directive– if these measures will enable effective participation remains to be seen. Inventories of nuclear waste remain incomplete, already in 2017, the EC criticized that “a number of member states have not reported on all types of radioactive waste, particularly radioactive waste originating from decommissioning and new builds, future forecasts and institutional waste.” Usually, management concepts include timeframes and monitoring of progress. However, national waste management programmes seem to be lacking such basic management instruments. Regarding final disposal of spent nuclear fuel, some countries still refer to the so-called shared solution – under the ERDO association’s lead – where countries could build a multinational repository in one of ERDO’s members. A problem for this solution is that many countries have laws in force forbidding import of nuclear waste, and that all relevant questions are not solved yet – how such a shared facility should be financed, regulated, insured, etc. Some member states are exporting their spent nuclear fuel to countries with questionable nuclear waste management practices (like the infamous Mayak facility in Russia). One of the general principles of the Nuclear Waste Directive is laid down in Article 4 (3)e: “the costs for the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste shall be borne by those who generated those materials”. Article 12(1)h requires member states to provide “an assessment of the national programme costs and the underlying basis and hypotheses for that assessment, which must include a profile over time”, and according to Art. 12 (1)i “the financing scheme(s) in force.” Costs arise during all phases of nuclear waste management. As there is no operable repository for spent fuel and HLW yet, the costs for such a facility are highly speculative. Nevertheless, it is clear that costs will be high, that the cost estimates continue rising and enormous funds have to be accumulated. While in the 2017 EC Report total costs were estimated to 400 bn euros, the estimate of 2019 was already significantly higher at 422-566 bn euros. It can be assumed that this number will have to be adjusted upwards in the next reports. With its 2019 report the EC confirmed what is widely been known by independent experts and suspected by the public: many member states do not have reliable data about the future costs of their nuclear programmes´ back-end and certainly do not have the financial means to cover them. The key question – who will pay for waste management once the dedicated funds have run dry in particular once the waste generators after decommissioning of the last NPPs will have stopped their contributions into those funds. There will hardly be another solution but making the taxpayers pay. Is Finland’s spent fuel repository a “game changer” for the nuclear industry? The game changer claim refers to the supposedly upcoming start of the spent fuel repository in Finland, called Onkalo. The solution applied there foresees the Swedish KBS-3 method of using copper canisters. However, there are independent scientific studies showing that the copper canisters may corrode much faster than originally assumed and have not been licensed yet. Also, copper is also rather expensive, some countries already announced they refrain from this option for financial reasons (Czech Republic). Concerning funding, a simple comparison shows how little the Finnish solution – if ever to come true – means to the overall situation the nuclear industry finds itself in: The official Finnish data show that the Onkalo repository construction and development costs reached 5 billion euros and should store 6,500 t of spent fuel. Have other countries accumulated comparable funding in their national nuclear waste funds or have they ensured to have them ready in time? As the Czech Nuclear Waste Agency noted in its 2019 Nuclear Waste Strategy: “when estimating the economic demands, it is necessary to understand (…) that a range of insecurities enters the calculation. These insecurities are not only technical, but also due to unusually remote time horizons, lying significantly beyond standard planning periods” (RAWRA 2019). The Czech Republic planned 3.1 billion euros for the construction of the deep geological repository (DGR); however, only 1.1 billion have been accumulated to date. Germany is another interesting example for not secured financing. While Germany has the advantage of a clearly determined amount of spent fuel because of the 2022 completed nuclear phase-out, the necessary sum is not secured. The 24.06 billion euros in the German fund for the management of nuclear waste (KENFO) need to be invested in such a manner that the broad estimated range of 169 to 182 billion euros will be the return of this investment at the end of the century – and it is not sure if the necessary interest rate can be reached. Clearly, the member states are not applying sufficient efforts to solve the nuclear waste situation. This became visible when the EC draft taxonomy Delegated Act 2021 proposed that EU countries have to come up with a plan to ensure the operation of a Deep Geological Repository by 2050. But member states protested against having to plan for a final disposal in 30 years, because they try to postpone this even further into the future. The unsolved nuclear waste problem is one of the key factors why nuclear energy is no sustainable energy solution.