Belgium has no more room in its storage spaces for low-grade nuclear waste, according to the latest annual report from Belgoprocess, the government agency responsible.
Belgoprocess’ waste storage bunker in Dessel in Antwerp province, close to the nuclear research centre in Mol, already contains 50,000 vats of waste, and there is not enough room left over for the quantity of waste expected in the coming year. The agency intends to build a new bunker with space for 5,000 vats, but warns that action needs to be taken in the meantime.
The new bunker will cost seven million euros, and will take a year to complete. Until it is ready, the agency needs to look elsewhere for somewhere to dispose of nuclear waste.
Belgoprocess has plans for a definitive stockage space, but when it presented its plans in 2017, the nuclear power regulator FANC presented a number of objections, and refused to issue a permit.
At the start of 2019, a new plan was submitted for approval. If all goes according to plan, the definitive storage should be ready by 2024, by which time the temporary bunker will have reached or even exceeded its capacity.
Belgoprocess stocks, according to the latest figures, mainly low-grade waste, with smaller quantities of medium-grade and high-grade: 440 m³ of high-grade waste; 3,895 m³ of medium-grade waste and 19,460 m³ low-grade waste. Only low-grade capacity is under pressure of space for the time being.
Last year the national institute for radioactive waste and enriched fissile material Niras, which oversees Belgoprocess, estimated the cost of stockage of nuclear material at eight to ten billion euros, substantially more than the projected 3.2 billion euros originally planned in 2013. The cost is paid by Electrabel, the energy provider which manages the country’s nuclear power stations.