Radioactive waste comes mainly from nuclear power production, but also from medicine, research, industry, and agriculture. Radioactive waste is produced in all EU countries and spent fuel in countries with nuclear power programmes and research reactors.
While low and medium-level nuclear waste such as from medical equipment is increasingly being taken care of, there is not yet a single final repository for intermediate-level and high-level radioactive waste, such as spent fuel from nuclear power plants. Fourteen EU countries currently produce spent fuel which can take millions of years to decay.
It is likely that the first repositories will be opened between 2020 and 2025 in several EU countries.
Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management Directive
The EU's Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management Directive requires that:
- EU countries should have a national policy
- EU countries draw up national programmes for the disposal of nuclear waste. These programmes have to include plans for the construction of nuclear waste disposal facilities
- Relevant information on radioactive waste and spent fuel be made available to the public
- EU countries invite international peer reviews at least every ten years
- the export of radioactive waste to countries outside the EU is allowed only under strict conditions