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Report Provides Key Information On Disposal Of Radioactive Waste

The management of radioactive waste has long been the subject of great debate with a number of options being put forward. However, any organisation, individual or nation considering disposing of radioactive waste by burying it deep in the earth should take time to read the GASNET report.

Deep geological disposal is the preferred option for the long-term management of intermediate and high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel in many European countries. That is why the EU's Framework Programme contributed over 230,000 euros towards the production of the report. Under the GASNET project, twelve organisations from seven different EU Member States and Switzerland joined forces to investigate the issue in an effort to reach some common ground. It has long been accepted that radioactive gases may be generated in deep geological repositories for radioactive wastes, and that both the type and quantity of gas generation vary with the waste repository type. However, there are differences of opinion concerning the treatment of gas issues in safety cases for such deep repositories. The first step of GASNET was for all the partners to put down on paper their current approaches to the treatment of gas issues in safety assessment, said project co-ordinator Dr Simon Norris of UK Nirex. From this, we identified the key issues and went on to evaluate how these issues can be most effectively treated. Gases can be produced in a number of ways, for example from the corrosion of metals or from the decay of organic matter in a repository. As the repository evolves, the type and rate of gas generation will change. This gas production can also affect the repository environment, for example the movement of groundwater. In addition, different types of rock have different chemical and physical characteristics that either help or restrict the movement of gas. So, the importance of gas issues in a safety case will be affected by the choice of 'natural barrier' - the rock type for repository construction and the overlying geology. Our report describes how gas issues should be treated in calculations of the safety of a repository over very long timescales, also noting design measures that can be implemented to reduce the effects of gas generation and movement. The report also considers the human element. The way in which the repository is created and, in particular, how it is sealed can strongly impact gas production and movement. The possibility of accidental intervention at a later time was also considered. The GASNET project is a perfect example of how the funding available through the EU's Framework Programme is being used to enable experts in specific areas from across Europe to work together, says Paul Leeks, Project Director for FP6UK. The current Framework Programme (FP6) runs until 2006 and organisations wanting free, easy to access, information on the 19bn euros of funding available to support internationally collaborative R&D should log on to http://fp6uk.ost.gov.uk or call central telephone support on 0870 600 6080. The final report of the GASNET project documents the current approaches to the treatment of gas issues in safety cases, and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches. Summarising the outcome of the project, Dr Simon Norris said: The GASNET report represents a comprehensive look at gas safety issues for deep geological repositories. It is publicly available and should be considered key reading for governmental institutions considering such an option. This work could also help respond to public issues concerning deep geological disposal.The EU's Framework Programmes are the worlds largest, publicly funded, research and technological development programmes. The Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) covers the period 2002-2006 and is the European Unions main instrument for the funding of collaborative research and innovation. It is open to public and private entities of all sizes in the EU and a number of non-EU countries. It has an overall budget of 19 billion. Most of the budget for FP6 is devoted to work in seven priority thematic areas:,? Life sciences, Genetics and Biotechnology for Health;,? Information Society Technologies;,? Nanotechnologies and Nanosciences, Knowledgebased Multifunctional Materials and New Production Processes and Devices;,? Aeronautics and Space;,? Food Quality and Safety;,? Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems; and,? Citizens and Governance in a Knowledge-based Society. There is also a focus on the research activities of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) across all seven thematic areas. The services of FP6UK are provided by the Office of Science & Technology (OST) / Department of Trade & Industry (DTI). More information can be found on http://fp6uk.ost.gov.uk EURATOM Programme,The EURATOM Programme provides for research and training on nuclear energy in FP6 for the European Atomic Energy Community. The funding for fission research in FP6 is split between research the management of radioactive waste (90 million); radioactive protection (50 million); and other activities in the field of nuclear technologies (including a small amount on innovative reactors) and safety (50 million).

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