Neighbouring nations nail Denmark on nuclear waste plan

Countries call for stronger environmental and safety considerations

Germany, Poland and Sweden are all jumping on the bandwagon to criticise Denmark's plans to safely dispose of its 5,000-10,000 cubic metres of nuclear waste.

The main criticisms concern both the geographical areas being considered for the waste storage and the assessment of the type of waste that is being deposited, reports Ingeniøren.

Currently, Denmark's nuclear waste is stored in Risø, a town on the west Zealand coastline north of Roskilde, where the country's DR3 reactor is located. The waste is piling up and is scheduled to be removed by 2023 and put in a final repository.

Too close to the surface
Based on a report by Rambøll, an engineering consultancy group commissioned by the Ministry of Health to assess waste locations, Denmark is considering six possible locations for the waste site: Rødbyhavn on Lolland, Paradisbakkerne on Bornholm, Thyolm, Thise, Skive and Kertinge Mark Kerteminde. All six municipalities have declined to have the waste deposited on their lands.

German and Polish authorities have been particularly worried about locations near their borders as both countries have said Denmark's final repository plans would be too close to the surface for nuclear waste and would be a real threat to groundwater contamination.

Umweltsinstitu München, a German environmental group, has said none of the six sites would be suitable for depositing such waste since they are all located in coastal zones, which are prone to danger due to rising sea levels.

The Danish plan is to bury the waste between 30 and 100 metres below the surface, though other nations are recommending the waste be buried between 300 and 800 metres.

Glowing rods
Furthermore, the Swedish authorities have called into question Denmark's classification of special waste.

Part of the waste at Risø includes 233 kilos of special waste, consisting mainly of spent fuel rods, which Sweden would classify as highly radioactive, but Denmark has not. The rods were classified as highly radioactive in 2003, but Dansk Dekommissionering, the group responsible for decommissioning the Risø reactor, later downgraded them.

The Polish and German authorities have also expressed concern over the Danish assessment, claiming greater demands need to be placed on safety for these highly radioactive rods. Denmark has tried to export the special waste over the last 15 years, but has yet to have any takers.

Kärnavfallsrådet, the Swedish national authority on nuclear waste, has called on the Danish authorities to seek advice from Sweden and Finland who have a greater experience on such repositories.

Ingeniøren reports that Parliament was meant to decide on the nuclear waste issue at the beginning of this year, but the decision will now be postponed until after the general election.

Parliament will consider three options for disposing of the waste: the final repository, intermediate storage and export, or a combination.