16 MARCH 2016 - COMMISSION VISITS WASTE MANAGEMENT SUB-SURFACE LABORATORIES

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission has just returned from a five day visit to Switzerland and Belgium, having met with regulators and organisations involved in high level waste disposal research and development in both countries.

The Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarce and a senior member of staff attended several locations to further study nuclear waste storage facilities, and investigate the safety case and licensing associated with proposed sub-surface storage facilities.

Locations visited included the ZWILAG interim storage facility (pictured left) and Mont Terri underground research laboratory in Switzerland, and the HADES underground research laboratory in Belgium.

Meetings were also held with the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI), National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (Nagra), the Belgian National Agency for Radioactive Waste and enriched Fissile Material (ONDRAF/NIRAS), the European Underground Research Infrastructure for Disposal of nuclear waste in a Clay Environment (EIG EURIDICE) and the Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC).

Mr Scarce said the Swiss and Belgian visits further expanded the Commission’s knowledge of deep geological storage and disposal, and would supplement the information already collected by the Commission.

“We were looking at the siting and development for high level waste disposal, where the concepts were primarily based in sedimentary clays as opposed to crystalline rocks and where they have developed specific expertise in ensuring the safety of the process – concepts that these two countries have been investigating for over 30 years,” Mr Scarce said.

“The visit contributed significantly to our understanding of the safety case for these disposal concepts. The organisations shared a lot of information with us. We also gained first-hand experience through visits to their underground laboratories and by talking to the experts on the ground – some of whom we will speak to again about the specifics of their projects.

“It was very helpful to draw from their experience in regard to siting issues, as well as public and community consent processes, which we know from the Tentative Findings feedback is an area that the community wants more information about.”

The five-week period for responses to the Tentative Findings document is open until 5pm Friday 18 March 2016. To provide written comments, visit the website here.