11 Nov 2019, 14:46
Benjamin Wehrmann

No country in the world has found solution for nuclear waste challenge - report

Clean Energy Wire

The challenge of finding and funding a final repository for radioactive nuclear waste has not been solved by any of the countries employing nuclear power in Europe or the rest of the world, the "World Nuclear Waste Report" compiled by the Green Party-affiliated Heinrich-Böll-Foundation in Germany has found. "Seventy years after the start of the nuclear age, no country in the world has found a real solution for the legacies of nuclear power," said former Green member of the European Parliament, Rebecca Harms, who initiated the report. Harms said the idea that nuclear power could solve the challenges posed by climate change as an alternative to fossil fuels had to be countered and nuclear advocates needed to present solutions to the waste challenge. "You can turn off a nuclear plant but not the nuclear waste," she said. In Europe alone, there are at least 60,000 tonnes of highly radioactive spent fuel rods and another 2.5 million cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level waste waiting for an adequate storing facility, says the report that focussed on European countries (excluding Russia and Slovakia due to incompatible databases) and the US.
It found that at the same time governments are still underestimating the costs of disposing of this waste and thus lack proper financing models, meaning that taxpayers ultimately might have to foot the "massive" bills that could arise at some point in the future, the report says. Marcos Buser, Swiss geologist and co-author of the report, said interim storage facilities currently used to shelve the waste have not been designed for long-term use and are reaching their capacity limits. "The shutdown and decommissioning of many nuclear power plants will again drastically increase the quantities," Buser warned, adding that almost all major nuclear power using countries in the world "are kicking the can down the road" and treat the existing risk with much less urgency than it deserves.

Germany has decided to end the use of nuclear power by 2022 and initiated a search for a final repository that is meant to be completed by 2031. It has set up a managed fund that is supposed to multiply the value of its assets from 24 to about 170 billion euros by the end of the century to cover the costs of setting up a final repository. The dismantling of nuclear plants is expected to generate contaminated waste in Germany until the 2040s but there has also been controversy over exports of nuclear material from other sources to Russia, which had been labelled as "recyclable material" but according to critics amounts to nothing more than "cheap dumping" of waste.

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