Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Nuclear - Waste and Decommissioning
The Finnish, Swedish and US repository programmes continue to be the most developed, but none is likely to have a repository in operation much earlier than 2020. The world's one operating geological repository is the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in the USA. Since 1999, it has accepted long-lived transuranic waste generated by research and the production of nuclear weapons, but no waste from civilian nuclear power plants. In 2006 the US Environmental Protection Agency approved WIPP's first recertification application, submitted in 2004. Recertification is required every five years. France's new legislation on spent-fuel management and waste disposal, which established spent-fuel reprocessing and recycling of usable materials as French policy, also established deep-geologic disposal as the reference solution for high-level long-lived radioactive waste. The legislation sets goals of applying for a licence for a reversible deep geological repository by 2015 and of opening the facility by 2025. It also calls for operation of a fourth-generation prototype fast reactor by 2020 to test, among other tasks, transmutation of long-lived radioisotopes. Also in 2006, the UK's Committee on Radioactive Waste Management concluded that the best disposal option for the UK is deep geological disposal, with 'robust interim storage' until a repository site is selected.
In November 2006 the Swedish nuclear fuel and waste management company SKB applied to the Swedish nuclear power inspectorate for a permit for an encapsulation plant in Oskarshamn. The encapsulation plant is the first step towards final disposal using the KBS-3 method, in which fuel is encapsulated in copper canisters and deposited in bedrock at a depth of approximately 500 metres. A final ruling on the application is not expected until after 2009, when the application for a final deep geological repository is scheduled to be submitted. Site investigations for a final repository are being carried out near Forsmark in Osthammar and in the Laxemar area of Oskarshamn.
Following a three-year nation-wide consultative process, Canada's Nuclear Waste Management Organization recommended an 'adaptive phased' approach to managing Canadian spent fuel. During the next 30 years, whilst spent fuel would continue to be stored at reactor sites, a suitable site for a deep geological repository would be selected, and a decision would be made as to whether to also construct a centralised interim shallow underground storage facility to start receiving spent fuel (in about 30 years' time). With or without a centralised interim facility, the deep repository would begin accepting spent fuel in about 60 years.
Decommissioning was completed in 2006 at the Big Rock Point nuclear power plant site in the USA, and the site returned to greenfield status. Thus, as of 2006, nine power plants around the world had been completely decommissioned, with their sites released for unconditional use. Seventeen plants have been partially dismantled and safely enclosed, 30 are being dismantled prior to eventual site release, and 30 are undergoing minimum dismantling prior to long-term enclosure.