Licence resubmitted for Belgian repository

06 February 2019

Ondraf/Niras, the Belgian agency for the management of radioactive waste, yesterday submitted a completed licence application for the construction of a low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste disposal facility at Dessel. An earlier version of the application was deemed incomplete.

How the surface disposal facility could appear at Dessel (Image: Ondraf/Niras)

Ondraf/Niras submitted an initial version of the licence application to the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) on 31 January 2013. However, FANC declared that the dossier was incomplete and requested a number of additional clarifications and additions. The regulator asked a total of some 300 questions. The last of these queries were answered at the end of 2017. During 2018, Ondraf/Niras integrated these responses into the dossier.

"A lot of work and time was needed to answer all these questions," said Rudy Bosselaers, programme manager at Ondraf/Niras. "This is a very complex dossier. It is also the first time that such a facility will be built in Belgium."

Yesterday, Ondraf/Niras submitted the completed version of the application to FANC.

Ondraf/Niras said the most important part of the application is the safety case. This document, which includes more than 20,000 pages, describes all the technical and scientific arguments demonstrating the safety of the facility in the short and long term.

Ondraf/Niras must also apply for an environmental permit for the project from the Belgian government.

If FANC considers the application is now complete, it will prepare a report on the application and submit it, together with the dossier, to the Scientific Council, an independent body composed of experts in the nuclear sector. Should the Scientific Council make a positive preliminary opinion of the application, the dossier must then go through further steps in the permitting procedure.

FANC said that, in its analysis of the dossier, its priority will be "on nuclear safety and the protection of workers, the population and the environment in the short, medium and long term".

A public consultation will be conducted in the neighbouring municipalities, with the residents of Dessel, Mol, Retie, Kasterlee and Geel having the opportunity to review the safety case and provide comments. The province of Antwerp and the European Commission will also be able to submit comments on the application. FANC will collect all comments and forward them to the Scientific Council, which will issue a preliminary opinion and set the provisional conditions of the permit. Ondraf/Niras will then have 30 days to respond, after which the Scientific Council will issue a final opinion. The permit will then be issued by royal decree.

Ondraf/Niras says it anticipates receiving authorisation by mid-2020. The first waste would be placed in the facility in 2024.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News