Ad hoc Expert Group on the Timing of High-level Radioactive Waste Geological Disposal

There is a broad agreement among experts that deep geological disposal after a reasonable cooling time and long-term storage followed by eventual disposal of high-level radioactive waste (HLW), including spent fuel, are both technically feasible and safe options. In most OECD member countries, extended interim storage of HLW is considered as a temporary solution pending the implementation of repositories for this type of waste. R&D programmes, including paper studies, computer modelling, laboratory and in situ testing, are ongoing in most OECD member countries. Some countries already are in the process of implementing a repository for spent fuel and other HLW.

The timing of HLW disposal is an important issue for government and industry. It may be affected by technical, economic, strategic or social parameters and raises issues in all those regards. Although the approach to waste management and disposal is driven by national policy goals and context, a comprehensive international review of issues associated with different timings for the disposal of HLW could assist policy makers in assessing alternative policies that may be under consideration in their respective countries. Also, it could provide an authoritative overview of issues at stake relevant in the context of communicating with various stakeholders on national policies.

The overall objective of the study was to provide policy makers with an in-depth analysis of the technical, economic and strategic issues raised by timing of HLW geological disposal. The primary goal of the study was to identify issues raised by various options and to review and analyse differences between the two from technical, economic, social and political viewpoints. The study also aimed at understanding the rationale for adopting an option.

The scope of the study focused on:

An ad-hoc group of experts, including nuclear energy policy makers, was convened to carry out the study. It is planned to publish their report in the course of 2007. With the completion of the report, the expert group disbanded.

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Last updated: 30 October 2007