We must get out of the impasse” on the storage of nuclear waste
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    We must get out of the impasse” on the storage of nuclear waste

    © Belga
    Mr Demarche says we need a swift decision on whether to store nuclear waste underground.
    © Belga

    The Chief Executive of the organisation which controls nuclear waste (Ondraf), Marc Demarche, called for the need to “get of the [current] impasse” in the preparation of a management plan for highly radioactive waste. He demands a lawful framework for such management.

    He suggested in La Libre Belgique on Friday, “Never mind which geological layer (editors’ note: clay, shale or granite) is chosen in the end. The first stage is to decide whether we will opt for geological storage.”

    Marc Demarche explains that, in total, Belgium is likely to produce 11,000 to 12,000 m3 of waste falling within class B and C – the most radioactive, the half-life (lifespan) of which can exceed one million years.

    He illustrates, “Now, 90% of spent fuel from Doel and Tihange is still stored on site. This takes place within cooling ponds at Tihange and in buildings at Doel.”

    The organisation, just like the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (“AFCN”), favours geological storage, in Ondraf’s view in soft clay. Marc Demarche argues, “Clay is a stable geological layer.” He justifies, “The advantage of burying at this depth is that the clay layer takes the place of concrete when the latter is lost in several hundred years.” 

    Yet Mr Demarche is worried that Ondraf has been awaiting a decision from the government as regards a management plan for radioactive waste since 2011. “Whether it be Ondraf, the AFCN or even the producers, everyone agrees in saying that geological storage is the way forward (editor’s note: Except for Ecolo), asserts the Chief Executive. He has been in post since June

    The Minister for Energy, Marie-Christine Marghem, considers that decision-making has dragged on, owing to Ondraf, which has delayed in taking on board the view of the AFCN and the government, which are saying that storage should not be limited to soft clay.

    The Minister hopes to receive a proposal from Ondraf soon, on the basis of which she will draft a royal decree confirming the choice of the option for storage 

    Christopher Vincent
    The Brussels Times