Geological disposal is the widely accepted endpoint for safe management of long-lived radioactive waste and spent fuel. However, policy, research and implementation vary widely among EU Member States. While many European countries are still working on establishing policies, France, Finland and Sweden have already applied for construction licences. Waste management organisations (WMOs) are responsible for the establishment of requirements and conditions for the construction, operation and closure of deep geological repositories. Assessors of these position papers will require specialised knowledge and skills to evaluate compliance with regulations through onsite inspections and R&D activities. The EU-funded project SITEX (Sustainable network of independent technical expertise for radioactive waste disposal) aimed to establish and develop expertise among such assessors. The focus was set on the harmonisation of policies and programmes among regulatory authorities, TSOs and WMOs. Scientists prepared a comprehensive list of critical safety issues and challenges related to the development and implementation of geological repositories. For these issues, the team prioritised R&D activities with an eye to engaging in scientific dialogue with the Implementing Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste Technology Platform. The next step was to review methodologies and assimilate experiences from national initiatives that have contributed to engaging civil stakeholders in the implementation of deep geological repository projects. Finally, SITEX partners prepared the draft of a framework for the establishment of a network of independent experts with the mission to develop technical expertise on the safety of deep geological repositories. Knowledge on fundamental processes of confinement and isolation of radioactive waste in deep geological repositories is today mature. Oversight of the implementation of such repositories by independent experts is expected to instil public trust and foster greater uptake of this widely accepted solution for the disposal of radioactive waste in the future.
Radioactive waste, deep geological disposal, spent fuel, geological repositories, critical safety issues