Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


Geological disposal of radioactive wastes is based on the principle that the deep rock environment is stable and largely unaffected by environmental change for hundreds of thousands - even millions of years - times that are longer than those since the appearance of modern humans in Africa and their spread across the globe, during and after the last ice age. Materials that are carefully emplaced deep underground will be well isolated from people and the environment in which we live.
Unlike many of our other industrial waste products, radioactive wastes have a useful characteristic. Their hazard progressively decreases by natural processes of radioactive decay - the very mechanism that makes radioactivity useful in the first place. As a result, many of the radioactive isotopes (radionuclides) in our wastes will decay to a few millionths of their original activity over the first few thousand years after burial and they will present no future hazard. Even for the most hazardous wastes, it is estimated that more than 99.9% of their original activity will never escape from a repository.
This document summarises and puts into context the achievements of the FP5 work and evaluates the scientific and technical status of geological disposal today. The European Union moved to enlargement in mid-2004, with five more countries joining the nine that already require geological disposal facilities for nuclear power production wastes. The first European geological repositories, in Sweden and Finland, will be close to construction around 2010-2015 - making the European Union and the USA the most advanced programmes in the world. We conclude by looking forward to the support and integration work that will lead up to this point, in the Sixth Framework Programme (2004-2006).

Additional information

Authors: CHAPMAN N (Editor), Independent consultant (CH)
Bibliographic Reference: EUR 21224 EN (2004), 42 pp. Free of charge
Availability: EUR-OP reference: KI-NA-21224-EN-C Available from: Documentation Service of DG Research Fax: +32 2 295 8220 E-mail:
ISBN: ISBN 92-894-8090-4
Record Number: 200417789 / Last updated on: 2004-11-18
Original language: en
Available languages: en