Frequently Asked Questions
What is the current situation with regard to the siting of a deep geological repository for spent nuclear fuel disposal?
A five-year Government moratorium on research work ended in 2009. RAWRA would like to resume research at the candidate localities in compliance with an approved timetable, a move which is supported by the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The collection of specific geological data will allow the identification of suitable locations and the exclusion of unsuitable sites by 2015. A main and a reserve locality will be subsequently identified based on an assessment of safety and technical and economic feasibility as well as potential environmental impacts. RAWRA strives to involve the communities concerned in all the stages of the site selection process and, indeed, repository construction acceptability at the local level is one of the major criteria for repository siting. Such an approach fully complies both with the current Czech Concept of Radioactive Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel Management and relevant international recommendations.
RAWRA, as well as the Ministry of Industry and Trade, has repeatedly stated that the communities concerned might receive a financial contribution even during the period in which purely research work is carried out. How much will it be and from which sources will it be provided?
We are committed to establishing the statutory right of local communities to a financial contribution as compensation for geological research in their area. Communities in areas in which candidate sites for geological research are located might thus receive up to CZK 100 million in total. Such funds would be provided from the so-called Nuclear Account which consists of payments made by each and every radioactive waste producer in the Czech Republic as well as the Czech nuclear plant operator which pays the relevant charges for the future disposal of spent nuclear fuel whatever decision is taken on its eventual final disposal. More than CZK 13 billion is currently deposited in the Nuclear Account.
Where can people in candidate localities find information on a deep geological repository?
RAWRA communicates intensively both with local councils and the general public. Representatives of the communities affected have been offered a number of opportunities to visit candidate repository sites in other countries and to exchange experience with representatives of local authorities in these countries. RAWRA has organised numerous meetings and discussions at individual localities in order to explain what a deep geological repository is and what geological research would mean to local people. A wide variety of printed informational materials were offered to local inhabitants on these occasions; these can be obtained any time at RAWRA’s head office or at any of its information centres. In addition, local council representatives took part in two conferences on the development of a deep geological repository which were held during 2009 in Prague. We plan to establish permanent information centres in individual candidate localities in order to provide the local public with relevant and up to date information going forward.
How many candidate localities have been chosen to date and why have these specific localities been chosen?
The current situation concerning site selection for a deep geological repository is described in “ "A future deep geological repository - Localities under consideration".
If people in a certain locality change their views regarding the construction of a repository, is RAWRA prepared to ease its safety criteria for the siting of a repository in order to construct a repository at any price?
No. Meeting the relevant repository safety criteria is RAWRA’s top priority. If a location is, at any stage of the geological research programme, identified as being unsuitable in terms of safety, we will immediately cease our activities there and turn to other localities. We view a positive attitude on the part of the public as a very important part of the repository development process; RAWRA represents the State in this respect and the State bears statutory responsibility for the safe disposal of radioactive waste.
What happens if RAWRA is not able to determine a main and a reserve locality by 2015? Will the delay cause any problems?
A timetable for the development of a deep geological repository is included in the Concept of Radioactive Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel Management adopted in 2002. A certain time reserve is included in each stage of the process since the development of a repository is extremely complex and delays and conflicts are almost inevitable. Should it not be possible to identify two suitable sites, the geological structure of the whole of the Czech Republic will be re-examined and other suitable sites identified.
What stages of the deep geological repository development process have other European countries reached?
Finland and Sweden are the most advanced countries in Europe in this respect. At Onkalo, the Finnish locality, a tunnel in which an underground laboratory will be located is currently under construction; it is currently almost 4 kilometres long and is located at a depth of more than 400 metres below ground level. It is envisaged that the laboratory will be transformed into a fully operational repository within 10 years. In Oskarshamn, Sweden, a similar underground laboratory is already in regular operation. The Forsmark locality was selected in 2009 for the construction of a future deep geological repository. It should be mentioned that both Sweden and Finland have chosen the direct disposal of spent nuclear fuel option.
Why invest in the construction of a repository which will open thirty to forty years from now if new technologies may become available which will allow radioactive waste to be re-used for energy production?
Since spent nuclear fuel contains elements which are capable of releasing a considerable amount of energy, spent fuel could become the source of a valuable raw material in the future. Nevertheless, even if spent fuel is re-used in the future, it does not mean that deep geological repositories will not be required. A certain amount of spent nuclear fuel and other high-level waste will still remain for final disposal. The volume of waste to be disposed of however will naturally be lower as will the risk it poses to the environment; consequently, any future repository will be used more efficiently. Considering the complexity of the deep geological repository development programme, primarily in terms of safety, the process must commence well in advance.
What kind of activities will the geological research which RAWRA plans to complete by 2015 involve?
Detailed geophysical and geochemical mapping will be carried out simultaneously at all localities. As part of the geochemical mapping process, samples of rock rubble will be collected from beneath the soil profile at a depth of 1 to 2 metres using hand boring tools and at a depth of 3 to 5 metres mechanically. Geophysical mapping will involve field measurements on the surface. Such work will take 3 to 4 months either in the early spring or after the autumn harvest when the ground is easily accessible. A location for deep drilling (700 to 1000 metres) will be identified based on a detailed geological map of the relevant locality in order to verify the deep-lying geological structure. The drilling of the borehole will take approximately 4 months.