27 July 2011 by Pelle Neroth
That's the new rules presented by Gunther Oettinger, Europe's energy commissioner, after agreement was achieved between Europe's energy ministers at a meeting in Brussels last week.
The Fukushima disaster in Japan was the reason cited as to the dangers of storing nuclear waste overground, and the move has had a further impetus due to the fact that Germany has chosen to phase out nuclear power by 2022.
As the EU's most powerful member, the country has thrown its weight behind urging powerful restrictions on the way other members deal with nuclear waste, even if they do carry on using nuclear power.
Green groups, however, have warned that weaker EU members will be tempted to export their nuclear waste instead. The European parliament wanted a total export ban.
Export is already forbidden to Antarctica, Africa and other developing countries under an old agreement. However, this latest agreement between the member states holds out for a loophole whereby a country like Russia could be the recipient of such nuclear waste they fail to dispose of themselves. Bulgaria is regarded as the member most likely to avail itself of this opportunity.
Nuclear waste storage is an expensive and complicated project, and Oettinger has said he realised it will take years. The deadline for coming up with a disposal programme is 2015, at the latest, by which time construction and financing plans will have to be finalised. Europe's nuclear power stations generate about seven thousand cubic metres of high level waste every year - equivalent to the volume occupied by a small block of flats. The agreement allows for intra-European collaboration on choice of sites
That is extremely helpful as some member states have much better preconditions for constructing facilities than others. Mountainous Austria and Sweden, for example, have plentiful potential for constructing the preferred commission solution, "deep geological storage facilities", 100 to 700 m below ground. At the moment only Finland, Sweden and France are constructing underground facilities.
The first will be ready in 2020. Since, as Oettinger says, facilities take decades to plan and construct, the chances are the plans to be set forth by 2015 will include temporary export of the rest of the EU's waste to one of these three countries - if it is not sent to Russia, that is.
Pelle Neroth -- EU correspondent
Edited: 27 July 2011 at 03:25 PM by Pelle Neroth
Posted By: Pelle Neroth @ 27 July 2011 11:27 AM Energy
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