Court case against the expansion of COVRA nuclear waste storage
Using Euratom to open the debate on nuclear waste storage
September 2015 - In 2011 the Dutch government granted life time extension to Borssele, the only Dutch nuclear power plant. Where it was initially supposed to be closed in 2003, the closure was postponed till 2013 and its now set to 2034. Therefore, the plant will be kept on-line for 60 years.
Borssele's life extension means it will produce more nuclear waste then was initially foreseen, and this is why the Dutch government also granted an expansion of the COVRA intermediate nuclear waste storage early 2015.
Laka Foundation appealed the expansion of the COVRA nuclear waste storage in February 2015. One of the objections of Laka c.s. is that the (interim) storage of nuclear waste at Covra is expanded without there being a plan what to do with the nuclear waste after closure of the Covra. There is a national fund which should collect enough interest to finance eventual construction of a final repository around 2100 and there's a tentative research program which is planned to last until 2100. And that's it.
Laka claims that this isn’t enough to ensure that the nuclear stored at Covra will be dealt with safely in the long term. Laka believes that there should be a concrete and reliable plan on what to do with all Dutch nuclear waste before the nuclear waste storage is expanded, to prevent this burden to be put on the shoulders of future generations.
Coincidentally, this is not only the point of view of Laka but also the point of view of the European Commission: In 2011,the Commission issued the 2011/70 Euratom Directive, with the goal to combat national “Wait and See"-policies in the field of nuclear waste policy, such as the Dutch.
The Euratom directive obliges operators during the licensing procedure to prove the safety of their installation during the construction, operation and during decommissioning of their installation. To prove that the Covra will remain safe during decommissioning, means to prove there’s a site where the remaining nuclear waste can be safely stored, after closure of Covra. Currently, the Covra cannot prove this; for their new license they didn’t even prove its possible to physically remove nuclear waste from the Covra safely; a clear example of an established wait-and-see policy, which the Commission wants to see abolished.
The court case will take place on the 8th of September in The Hague. The verdict is expected 6 weeks after that.
Needless to say that when the Dutch court decides to agree with our objections on the basis of the Euratom Directive, this will have a big impact on other interim nuclear waste storages which are designed on the model of Covra.
On 11/11/2015 Laka has lost its case against the expansion of the Covra nuclear waste storage. As a result, the permit of Covra is irrevokable and it can now expand and continue operation indefinitely.
However, due to a technicality the Dutch court couldn't consider if the license application was in line with EURATOM 2011/70.
Basically, this legislation seems to oblige governments to ensure license applicants have plans on what to do with nuclear waste after closure of the interim facility (meaning: plans to build a safe final repository). This is important when considering appeals against Spanish Villar de Cañas (Cuenca) nuclear waste facilities, which are desigend after the model of Covra, or anybody else who's interested in appealing a license of an interim nuclear waste repository:
3. As part of the licensing of a facility or activity the safety demonstration shall cover the development and operation of an activity and the development, operation and decommissioning of a facility or closure of a disposal facility as well as the post-closure phase of a disposal facility.
In Netherlands no such plans exist. Therefore, Laka will now ask the Dutch government to add this requirement into the new license of the COVRA nuclear waste storage.
Read our reaction here (in Dutch).