Belgian regulator supports geological disposal for high-level waste

15 June 2020

Belgium's Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) says it is in favour of a proposal for the disposal of high-level and/or long-lived radioactive waste in a geological repository. The draft proposal was developed by Ondraf/Niras, the Belgian agency for the management of radioactive waste, and was submitted to the public and various government services, including the FANC, for consultation between 15 April and 13 June.

Ondraf/Niras' reference concept for geological disposal (Image: Ondraf/Niras)

FANC said it agrees that, "with the scientific knowledge we have today, geological disposal is the safest long-term option". As the waste will be "very well contained and separated from humanity", it said the risks associated with new developments - such as wars, climate change and lack of financial resources - have been "limited as much as possible".

FANC added however that the safety of a concrete geological disposal project will have to be demonstrated at a later stage. "The current proposal only discusses the principle of geological disposal. How, where and when the repository would be built is not yet an issue." It has also made a number of comments, including that the possibility of a multinational disposal project cannot be excluded, and that a long-term management solution at one or more sites must be considered.

Unlike most countries that produce nuclear waste, Belgium has yet to take a position on the final disposal of high-level and/or long-lived waste, said FANC, which only rules on the nuclear safety and security aspects of the proposal. It noted that a licence application for a geological disposal facility has yet to be filed and that a site "with the most appropriate geological guest formation, location and depth of storage" had yet to be chosen.

Ondraf/Niras will now take into account the results of the public consultation and the advice of the Advisory Committee, the Federal Council for Sustainable Development, the regional governments, FANC and the other consulted bodies. It will then submit a policy proposal to the Council of Ministers. If the Belgian government approves the principle of geological disposal as a long-term solution, FANC will continue to be involved in further decisions about the choice of the host formation and the site in the future, because those choices have a safety impact. All those decisions must be substantiated by a safety file that is then submitted to FANC for advice.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News