The European Union should establish a common framework for the safe management of radioactive waste and spent fuel, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has urged. The public must be positively engaged in proposals to determine the long term future of these materials and urgent action must be taken to resolve issues which have been under discussion for fifty years
Following the European Commission’s draft directive on radioactive waste the EESC highlights the fact that in addition to the very extensive stockpile of radioactive waste of varying grades the EU produces 280 cubic metres of highly radioactive waste and 3,600 tonnes of Heavy Metal from spent fuel each year.
Richard Adams (United Kingdom, Various Interests Group), the rapporteur of the opinion, insists that each Member State needs to make its own choice about radioactive waste management but within the framework of International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines and subject to a transparent approach and international peer review.
Mr Adams points out that dealing with the issues of radioactive waste is not the same as expressing support or disagreement with the use of nuclear power. “The reality is that tens of thousands of tonnes of nuclear waste is stored in different ways at many sites across Europe, all the intermediate and high level waste is held in what is regarded as temporary storage. Europe urgently needs a publicly debated and accepted management plan,” he says.
The EESC opinion also recommends that the directive makes specific reference to being complementary to the directive on hazardous waste, should strongly affirm that the producer of the radioactive waste pays for its disposal and welcomes the opportunity for member states to develop, by agreement, shared facilities. The EESC also states that it would be sensible in the medium term to work towards forms of energy generation that did not involve the production of substances that posed a threat to human life for many centuries.