From Banned to Allowed: Pathway to Sub-seabed HLW Repositories
Craig L. Porter, P.E., Jetseal Engineering & Technical Services
For many countries the disposal of high-level radioactive waste (HLW) has been delayed due to a number of factors including the Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) syndrome. Sub-seabed disposal has no NIMBY concerns since the disposal facilities utilize sediments underlying approximately 4000 meters of international waters. The technical feasibility of the concept was demonstrated during a 12-year joint effort of over 200 researchers from 10 different countries. Social pressures to keep the oceans off-limits to most disposal activities resulted in termination of the coordinated international effort. However, the treaty banning the concept mandated a 25-year review frequency covering the latest scientific and technical information germane to the activity. An effort is underway to supply information to the signatories of the treaty, in their native languages, so they can make a fully-informed decision -- whether or not to approve an amendment that would allow sub-seabed disposal if determined to be protective of human health and the environment and permitted in accordance with guidelines provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The information highlights the environmental and safety aspects of the disposal concept within a sensible global stewardship framework. With an amended treaty to allow sub-seabed HLW repositories, the global outlook for nuclear waste disposal would be altered dramatically: the number of potential disposal facilities scattered around the world could be reduced from over sixty land-based to approximately six (three land-based, three sub-seabed).
WMS Journal Volume 2, Issue 2