Almost every modern country faces problems with radioactive waste (RAW) disposal, as nuclear
technologies are now used in many areas – power generation, medicine, science, defense, safety
tools, etc. As a result of using these technologies, the world has accumulated about 250 mln m3
of solid RAW and an unknown amount of liquid RAW. Each country solves the problems of
handling RAW (including disposal) according to its government’s abilities and the amount of waste
Currently the most common strategy for a long-term handling of the high-active and mediumactive
long-lived radioactive waste is deep geological disposal, which means the allocation of
waste in geological formations at depths of several hundred meters. The idea of deep burial of
radioactive waste came about in the 1960s. The repositories Morsleben and Asse-2 were built in
salt mines in East and West Germany. Asse-2 is currently in poor condition and does not provide
isolation of radioactive waste from the environment.
The world consensus regarding particular methods of deep burial has not been reached, and
different countries prefer to explore burial possibility in different geological formations. For the
disposal of high-active, long-lived and heat-emitting RAW and NW there are suggestions to use clay
(France, Belgium, Switzerland), salt formations (Germany), or crystalline rocks (Sweden, Finland).
In the United States the possibility of RAW disposal in deep boreholes at a depth of 3-5 km is under
active investigation. Alternatively, some are studying the possibility of a near-surface storage of
RAW (The Netherlands) in the hope that new radwaste handling technologies will be developed in
Unfortunately, it is not possible to use direct experimentation as a method to assess the reliability
of a particular method of waste disposal. Since the goal is to isolate the waste for hundreds of
thousands of years, real-time experiments are not possible and we have to rely on calculations and
modeling of geological processes in a situation of uncertainty.
The general approach of European countries to the institutional solution for the problem of
finding long-term and sustainable methods of handling RAW is the creation of a national body,
independent from the nuclear industry, and an agency or company, controlled by the government,
which is responsible for long-term radioactive waste management (eg. in Sweden there is a nongovernmental
company SKB under the supervision of the Ministry of the Environment; in Finland
there is a non-governmental company Posiva, in France – the national agency ANDRA, in Germany
– the federal body BfKE).
However, the technological choice of dealing with RAW and finding locations for repositories
are the responsibility of national governments and (or) parliaments. At the same time both
national legislation and the UNECE Convention “On Access to Information, Public Participation in
Decision-making and Access to Justice in matters relating to the environment” (Aarhus Convention)
require not only informing the general public about projects related to RAW, but to ensure public
participation in the decision-making process.
In each and every country, the general public participates in discussions on RAW handling and
tries to influence (with varying degrees of success) decisions made by governments and companies
involved in RAW handling processes.
This report reviews some practices of public participation in decision-making concerning RAW
disposal in five EU countries and Russia. The report’s authors were involved in a research project on
public participation practices, supported by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, the Public Council
of Rosatom State Company, the German-Russian Exchange and the BELLONA Foundation.
Authors: Aleksander Nikitin, Andrey Ozharovsky, Aleksander Kolotov, Andrey Talevlin
- RAO_public_eng_5 (pdf)