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EU Energy Policy:
- Radioactive Waste

Updated: December 2014
In 2011 the radioactive waste directive was adopted requiring EU countries to develop programmes for waste management according to the high safety standards. The programmes shall be ready in 2015. The directive works together with the radioactive waste transport directive from 2007

Index of this Page:

· Directive on the Management of Radioactive Waste

·Transport of Radioactive Waste
·INFORSE Recommendations Regarding Original Proposal. Read

· A Bit of History  

Directive on the Management of Radioactive Waste
The directive on "establishing a Community framework for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste" was adopted in July 2011 as directive 2011/70/EURATOM. Its main elements are that countries shall set a high safety standard for safety of radioactive waste management and that they shall::
· Have national policies on spent fuel and radioactive waste management;
· Take responsibility for the radioactive waste they generate, also it if it is shipped for reprocessing in another country;
· Ensure that costs of radioactive waste management is covered by those that generate the waste;
· Ensure the radioactive waste is not shipped to countries forbidden by Directive 2006/117/Euratom (see below);
· Have a national legislative, regulatory and organisational framework for radioactive waste management
· Make a self-assessment every 10 year of their national framework, including an international peer review
· Have a national programme for radioactive waste management, including important milestones, plans or concepts for radioactive waste management, and assessment of costs
· Give responsibility of radioactive waste to the generators of the waste
· Have national requirements for public information and participation, ensuring workers and the public are informed and can participate in decision-making processes regarding radioactive waste management.
· Have a regulatory authority for the safety of radioactive waste management with enough resources and separated from any body promoting or using nuclear energy;
· Have a licensing system for radioactive waste management and/or facilities;
· Ensure the radioactive waste license holders maintain adequate resources to fulfill their obligations for safety of radioactive waste management

The directive, including the national plans, shall be implemented nationally in August 2015.

Read EU Commission Page

Directive on the Supervision and Control of Shipments of Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel
This Directive, 2006/117/Euratom, provides a compulsory and common system of notification and a standard control document for the shipments (e.g. procedures of authorization, application for transit). The Directive covers shipments above a certain quantity, which have a point of departure, transit or destination into the Community. However, the Directive does not apply in some cases:
· Shipments of sources being returned to a supplier, manufacturer or authorized installation
· Shipments of radioactive substances recovered through reprocessing and destined for a different use
· Shipments of natural radioactive substances, which do not result from treatment
A Member State can refuse a shipment if its decision is justified by the legislation. However, for shipments within the Community, it is not possible to impose conditions which are more stringent than those laid down by the national law of a Member State. Consequently, the Directive simplify administrative procedures, but it introduces little progress regarding the protection of its citizens.

The Directive forbids shipments to African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, to Antarctica, and to any third country which does not have the resources to treat radioactive waste safely.

The directive is supplemented with the Commission Recommendation 2008/956/Euratom on criteria for the export of radioactive waste and spent fuel to third countries and with the Commission standard document for the supervision and control of shipments of radioactive waste and spent fuel 2008/312/Euratom.

Read the EU Commission Page

INFORSE-Europe Opinions
The radioactive waste directive leaves a crucial aspect unregulated. There is no regulation for the establishment and use of waste management funds for nuclear power plants. This lack of regulation gives an unhealthy distortion of the internal electricity markets, where some power companies have these funds at their disposal for decades until they are needed for decommissioning. This market distortion must be stopped. Thus we propose that the EU Commission introduce legislation to ensure that utilities create separate legal entities to protect the decommissioning and radioactive waste management funds. Under no circumstances must these funds remain under the control of the utilities.

We cannot agree with the proposals for export of radioactive waste. Export of nuclear waste for final disposal outside the EU should be prohibited; it will increase the risk that the environment is contaminated.

The original (2002) directive proposal set an arbitrary date (2018) for the operation of disposal sites for high-level radioactive waste that must be isolated from the environment for a hundred thousand years. INFORSE-Europe is against that. Furthermore, the proposed dates may interfere with the scientific analysis and public consultation process necessary for the creation of the most suitable storage facilities. This requirement is not included in the adopted directive

Read also: INFORSE response, 31 May 2010, (pdf file 100 kB)


A bit of history

2011. The directive on radioactive waste was adopted after substantial changes, such as the deletion of a fixed deadline for the start of operation of final waste storages.

2010 After long negotiations on radioactive waste management the Council called for an "extensive consultation" with stakeholders in the period in 2010. Soon after the consultations the negotiations on the radioactive waste management directive restarted.

2009 November: European Council called on the European Commission to continue its work towards a Community approach in this field. The European Parliament also asked to submit a new proposal for a Directive on Radioactive Waste Management, taking into account the "polluter-pays" principle.

2007-2008 the European Commission organised an Impact Assessment through an open consultation for the evaluation of a potential (new) legislative measure in the area of Transport of Radioactive Materials (TRAM).

2006 The directive on radioactive waste transport was adopted.

2004 The EU ministers discussed the "EU Nuclear Package" including the directive on radioactive waste management. They concluded that rather than work further with the directives, they will " engage in a wide ranging consultation process facilitating the choice of instrument(s), in the framework of the Euratom Treaty. Then the Commission proposed an Amended directive proposal, but the countries concluded not to start negotiations and instead stick to their prior decision on a consultation process.

2003. The Commission released a revised version of the directive which was discussed among the EU countries, and in the EU Parliament.

2002, November 6: the EU Commission proposed a Directive on radioactive waste, as part of a "nuclear package"

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