Radioactive Waste in Perspective

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Large volumes of hazardous wastes are produced each year, however only a small proportion of them are radioactive. While disposal options for hazardous wastes are generally well established, some types of hazardous waste face issues similar to those for radioactive waste and also require long-term disposal arrangements. The objective of this NEA study is to put the management of radioactive waste into perspective, firstly by contrasting features of radioactive and hazardous wastes, together with their management policies and strategies, and secondly by examining the specific case of the wastes resulting from carbon capture and storage of fossil fuels. The study seeks to give policy makers and interested stakeholders a broad overview of the similarities and differences between radioactive and hazardous wastes and their management strategies.

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Theme 2

The Outlook for Wastes Arising from Coal and from Nuclear Power Generation

Nuclear Energy Agency

This chapter addresses the second of the themes considered in this report. This is regarded as an important consideration in that society’s need for electricity has to be satisfied. There is a choice to be made with respect to the balance of technologies that meet this need whilst recognising the constraints imposed by the need to avoid climate change. As will be seen in Chapter 4 and Appendix 4, radioactive waste disposal is a key factor in the public’s antipathy to nuclear energy. Diminishing the role of one technology because of a disadvantage (in the case of nuclear energy, the need to manage radioactive waste) without considering the equivalent disadvantages of any replacement will not lead to a rational decision. There are, of course, many other factors than just waste issues in making such a technology choice, but here waste is the focus. In practice, meeting the necessary CO2 reduction targets identified by organisations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be extremely challenging and both CCS and nuclear energy are likely to be needed in significant quantities.


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