Decision delayed on final resting place of radioactive waste
The government has delayed a decision on where 5,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste, currently being stored near the town of Roskilde, will ultimately wind up. The waste is the byproduct of three test reactors operated at Risø National Laboratory during Denmark’s flirtation with nuclear energy between 1954 and 2000.
Parliament decided in 2003 to build a watertight, 300-year storage facility for the waste, and the plan had been that one of the six sites in five councils that had been shortlisted as potential homes for a storage depot would be chosen sometime this year.
The health minister, Astrid Krag (Socialistisk Folkeparti), has now decided to wait until an environmental assessment of the possible locations is finished at the end of the year, in order to narrow the field to two possible sites. Authorities are also taking a closer look at exporting the waste to a country with a history of handling radioactive material or simply letting it remain in Risø.
Fierce opposition from officials and residents of the six sites in five councils – Bornholm, Lolland, Kerteminde, Struer and Skive (with two possible locations) may have contributed to the decision to wait.
"It is very positive that we are now looking at exporting the waste or keeping it at Risø,” Stuer mayor Niels Viggo Lynghøj told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “I hope they leave it at Risø for 100 years by which time we will learn more about handling it.”
The mayors of the five councils feel that they are being left in the dark regarding the decision-making process and have requested a meeting with the health minister.
“It is obvious that those of us in areas on the government’s list must know what is going on,” Skive mayor Flemming Eskildsen told Jyllands-Posten. “That is not currently the case. We get most of our information from the media.”
Kerteminde mayor Sonja Rasmussen said she was glad that the waste was not headed her way, but that she wished that the government would make up its mind.
"It is frustrating because we have already waited so long and it is very hard to sell a house in the area as long as there is no decision, "she told Jyllands-Posten.
Rasmussen said that the waiting game has had a negative effect on life in her council.
“It is painful for those of us who fear that this thing may wide up in our backyards,” she said.
The possibility of constructing an above-ground storage facility that would not risk possible contamination of ground water – a major concern of those in the shortlisted towns – is also being examined. Should such a depot become a reality, Denmark would be the first country to solve the radioactive waste issue without risk to the environment and groundwater.
Krag justified the delay by saying that she wanted to examine both the feasibility of above ground storage and the possibility of exporting the waste.