The European Commission has released its long-awaited proposed nuclear waste directive, which would tell European Union (EU) member states to develop plans to store radioactive waste in safe repositories.
The proposal however avoids the issue of whether to force governments to use deep underground repositories, even though it is clearly Brussels' favoured option, reports World Nuclear News. A commission memorandum said: "Geological conditions are very different. This is why it is up to the member states to define the depths according to the site specific situation. Every site must be evaluated according to its specific situation."
However, it adds: "It is broadly accepted at the technical level that deep geological disposal represents the safest and most sustainable option as the end point of the management of high level waste and spent fuel considered as waste."
If the directive is approved by the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, member states would have to draft suitable national programs within four years detailing plans for constructing and managing disposal facilities, including descriptions of disposal solutions, timetables, costs assessments and financing. If the commission believes these plans breach EU nuclear safety rules, it could require changes.
The directive would also allow two or more member states to share a repository, although they could not export nuclear waste outside the EU for final disposal. Also, the legislation would insist governments inform and consult the public when drawing up their plans.
And regarding disposal operations, the legislation would make International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safety standards legally binding across the EU, including the work of independent authorities licensing repositories and inspecting their operations.
Releasing the proposal, EU energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said: "Safety concerns all citizens and all EU countries, whether they are in favour or against nuclear energy."