The Environmental and Ethical Basis of Geological Disposal of Long-Lived Radioactive Wastes

A Collective Opinion of the Radioactive Waste Management Committee of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency

Table of Contents


Collective Opinion of the Radioactive Waste Management Committee:

    The Environmental and Ethical Basis of the Geological Disposal of
    Long-lived Radioactive Waste

Ethical and Environmental Considerations in the Long-term Management of Radioactive Wastes

    Ethical and Environmental Background to the Management of Waste

    The Radioactive Waste Management Responsibility

    The Geological Disposal Strategy for Radioactive Waste



I: IAEA Safety Fundamentals:
The Principles of Radioactive Waste Management

II: Executive Summary of the Previous International
Collective Opinion on Safety Assessments

III: List of Members of the Radioactive Waste Management Committee

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The safe disposal of radioactive wastes, and specifically the need to protect humans and the environment in the far future, is given particular attention in all countries engaged in nuclear power generation. It is also a concern in many other countries making use of radioactive materials for medical, industrial, or research purposes.

As for many environmental protection situations linked to industrial development, including the management of hazardous chemical materials, the safe disposal of radioactive wastes requires consideration of a broad range of scientific and technical factors relating to potential impacts on the biosphere, as well as basic ethical principles that reflect the expectations of society.

Whilst the state-of-the-art in this field is relatively advanced and known, diverging views are often expressed calling, from time to time, for a reappraisal of the proposed approaches and actions. As in many other areas, extensive international exchanges of views help in clarifying the issues involved and in formulating consensus positions which may assist national authorities in their search for appropriate solutions.

This report presents such a consensus position in the form of a Collective Opinion of the Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC) of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency. It addresses the strategy for the final disposal of long-lived radioactive wastes seen from an environmental and ethical perspective, including considerations of equity and fairness within and between generations. This Collective Opinion, by professionals having responsibilities at a national level in the field of radioactive waste management, is intended to contribute to an informed and constructive debate on this subject. It is based on recent work reported from NEA countries and on extensive discussions held at an NEA workshop organised in Paris in September 1994 on the Environmental and Ethical Aspects of Long-lived Radioactive Waste Disposal. Of particular importance in these discussions was the participation of the OECD Environment Directorate, and of independent experts from academic and environmental policy centres. The full proceedings of this workshop have been published by the OECD.

This report is published on the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the OECD. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the position of national authorities in NEA Member countries or of international organisations.