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Challenges of Licensing Geological Repositories

Tero Varjoranta (far right) describes Finland´s decades of work leading up to establishing a geological repository for nuclear waste. Other panellists - Carl-Magnus Larsson, Bill Borchardt, and Chairperson Ann-Louise Eksborg - look on. (Photo: G. Verlini/IAEA)

National nuclear regulators today focused on licensing and the safe geological disposal of nuclear waste during the IAEA´s General Conference.

Finland, France and Sweden are in the process of creating geological repositories as long-term disposal for spent nuclear fuel and high level waste. Nuclear regulators from these countries and the United States shared their insights on legislating, siting and licensing geological repositories.

The round-table discussions were led by representatives from countries in various stages of preparing geological repositories. These experiences and innovations are of particular interest for Member States with nuclear programmes or planning to start such programmes.

"The success of these projects in Finland, France and Sweden is enormously important for nuclear in general," said Hans Forsstroem, Director of the IAEA´s Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology.

The regulators identified two critical factors, essential in establishing geological repositories: the operating government´s long-term political commitment to the project, and, open and frank dialogue with the surrounding communities to achieve local consent for siting a geological repository. The panellists made clear that although the process is lengthy, this dialogue is indispensible in the project´s eventual success.

"The safe disposal of this waste in a manner that the general public can have confidence in is essential to finally close the nuclear fuel cycle. The round table discussion enabled ongoing international dialogue on this topic to progress," said Didier Louvat, Head of the IAEA´s Waste and Environment Safety Section.

Experts in attendance agreed that it is important to foster knowledge sharing and collaboration between nuclear regulators worldwide to ensure that the best practices are being employed as these countries forge ahead into "uncharted waters".

Panellists included Tero Varjoranta, Director of Finland´s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority; Geraldine Dandrieux of the French Nuclear Safety Authority; Carl-Magnus Larsson from the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and Bill Borchardt of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The meeting was chaired by Ann-Louise Eksborg, Director General of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority.

Last update: 27 July 2017