Nuclear Waste Management


All nuclear plants are producing radioactive wastes which must be managed and disposed of safely. According to the content of radioactive substances and their half-lives, the heat output, the intensity of radiation and other criteria, many different waste categories can be distinguished. Internationally, classification in low-, intermediate- and high-level wastes is often used.

By far the largest quantities of radioactive substances are contained in the spent fuel from nuclear power plants and in high-level waste from the reprocessing of this fuel.

Conditioning, storage and transportation of these wastes are associated with hazards - for example because of incidents in waste treatment plants, leaks from tanks or release during transportation accidents. They are subject to safety requirements, which are graded according to the radioactive inventory involved. Final disposal constitutes the greatest challenge. The safe containment of the wastes has to be guaranteed for long periods of time - for some types of wastes for a million years and more.

The international harmonization of procedures and safety requirements for nuclear waste management disposal has not progressed very far. In the European Union, too, it is still at an early stage. This particularly concerns final disposal.

Current activities of cervus nuclear

  •      Work on safety issues concerning conditioning, storage and
         transportation of radioactive wastes
  •      Issues of final disposal: site selection, storage concepts,
         safety case


Particularly relevant:

Participation in a panel of experts as part of the site selection process for a deep geological repository in Switzerland. The second stage of this procedure is currently under way. The National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (Nagra)  has proposed two siting regions for further investigation in January 2015. The Swiss Federal Council will probably decide 2018 about the proposed sites. The Nagra proposals are currently (2016/17) subject of controversial discussion. H. Hirsch was lead author of an expert statement on this topic.