What is a deep geological repository and why is it essential

DGRs serve for the safe disposal of high-level waste
that cannot be disposed of in surface and sub-surface repositories

DGRs work on the basis of a system of geological and engineered barriers that complement each other. The most significant barrier consists of the 500 metres of stable rock above the repository. The engineered barriers consist of the waste disposal containers and the buffer and backfill materials (special clay mixtures – bentonite).

3 reasons why the deep geological repository is essential


High-level waste and spent nuclear fuel already exist

Approximately 80 to 100 tonnes of such waste is produced each year in the Czech Republic, most of which consists of spent fuel from nuclear power plants. Due to the planned increase in the use of nuclear power and the possible construction of new nuclear power plant reactors, the amount of waste is likely to increase in the future. It is the responsibility of all states that have decided to produce electricity at nuclear power plants to ensure the safe disposal of all the waste produced.

Long-term perspective

Although it is technically possible to store high-level waste in surface facilities, it would, over the long term, pose a security risk. Among the various considerations, we must take into account the various ethical and economic aspects involved. It would be wrong to leave the issue of the disposal of nuclear waste produced today for future generations to solve. The best way to permanently dispose of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste is in deep geological repositories.

Deep geological repositories provide the safest solution

The DGR option fulfils the various strict safety and technical requirements involved. Safety analysis studies have demonstrated that existing rock formations are capable of preserving the integrity of the disposal system over hundreds of thousands to millions of years without burdening future generations with the long-term surface storage of this waste.

Experts began to search for ways to dispose of high-level waste and spent nuclear fuel as early as the beginning of the 1970s. Although it was always anticipated that the best option would be to dispose of such waste in deep geological repositories, other options were explored, for example:

  • disposal in permanently frozen land, which faces the problem of future potential climatic developments on Earth
  • disposal at depths of 5-8 km beneath the Earth’s surface which, however, raises uncertainty concerning the potential occurrence of volcanic activity or the shifting of tectonic plates that could return the waste to the surface.
  • disposal on the seabed which, however, would be in contravention of the London Convention which prohibits such disposal. In any case, it would be difficult to prove that no contamination of marine and aquatic organisms would eventually occur.
  • disposal in the Antarctic ice sheet; this is prohibited by the ban on exporting radioactive waste to the Antarctic.
  • disposal in space; this was not only considered to be uneconomic and unethical but also potentially dangerous in the event of a launching malfunction and the return to Earth and disintegration of the waste-containing vessel. INTERESTING FACT: See the video on why it is so difficult to shoot waste into the sun https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHvR1fRTW8g