Geological disposal (GD) of radioactive waste is close to becoming a reality for Finland, Sweden and France. High-technology development and advanced knowledge has made it possible to defend the feasibility and the safety of such facilities, making the European Union a leader in the field. Other European countries are closely behind, developing high competence through advanced research programmes, research infrastructures and public engagement.
At the other extreme, there are countries whose GD programmes are at an early stage and no systematic research programmes exist. These include several new Member States but not the Czech Republic and Hungary, both of which have already initiated a siting process.
There are several common reasons for this delay in schedule: small and relatively younger nuclear energy programmes, return of the spent fuel (especially from research reactors) to the countries of origin, open fuel cycle concept (requiring at least 50 years of wet and dry storage). In this context, there has been little pressure on setting up an early GD programme. Currently their disposal concepts are only generic and in most of these countries need updating, taking into account the current socio-economic context.
However, some of these new Member States still aim to have a GD in operation within several decades, e.g. 2055 in Romania and 2067 in Slovenia. Strategic planning based on the experience of more advanced programmes shows the GD process should start immediately in order to be able to achieve these deadlines.
In this context, the implementation of the EC Directive 70/2011 gives the opportunity to progress the advancement of the GD process in these countries.