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Community plan of action in the field of radioactive waste (1980-1999)

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Community plan of action in the field of radioactive waste (1980-1999)


To establish a plan of action for the period 1980-1999, in order to allow management of the increasing volume of radioactive waste within the Community.


Council Resolution of 18 February 1980 on the implementation of a Community plan of action in the field of radioactive waste.

Council Resolution of 15 June 1992 on the renewal of the Community plan of action in the field of radioactive waste.


The development of nuclear energy is intended to enable the Community to meet its electrical energy needs while at the same time ensuring availability of supplies as a result of diversification of its sources of fuel.

The increase in the generation of electricity from nuclear sources has led to an increase in the production of waste.

All Member States produce radioactive waste to varying degrees. Significant amounts of radioactive waste have already been accumulated in the Community pending removal.

The existence of this waste must not put at risk the health of Community citizens, because of the dangers of ionising radiation, or the environment.

The Council Resolution of 18 February 1980 established a Community plan of action in the field of radioactive waste for the period from 1980 to 1992. The 1980 plan covered radioactive waste from nuclear installations focusing in particular on the management and storage of high activity and/or long-life waste.

The 1980-1992 plan was based on five points:

  • continuous analysis of the situation with a view to adoption of the necessary solutions;
  • examination at Community level of measures which could ensure the long-term or permanent storage of radioactive waste under optimum conditions;
  • consultation on practices concerning the management of radioactive waste;
  • continuity of Community research and development work during the plan;
  • providing the public with regular information on the radioactive waste situation.

The 1980-1992 plan was successful, in particular by enabling technical, legal, administrative and social issues, in particular those relating to information for the public, to be considered within one and the same framework. Consequently, the plan was renewed until the end of 1999 by the Council Resolution of 15 June 1992.

According to the Council, current Community activities relating to such issues should be continued and expanded in the light of the results of the research programmes, the more comprehensive approach to safety and environmental protection that is now required and the new context created by the technical and practical issues resulting from the abolition of frontier controls within the Community and the gradual enlargement of the Community.

It is important to develop cooperation between the Community and third countries, in particular those of Central and Eastern Europe, in the field of the management and storage of radioactive waste taking into account the new challenges likely to arise following the future dismantling of several nuclear plants using outdated technology.

On renewing the plan, the Council decided to increase the number of points covered to seven:

- Continuous analysis of the situation

The Commission must periodically provide the Council with an analysis of the situation and prospects in the field of radioactive waste management in the Member States, with special reference to safety and environmental protection requirements and the requirements of nuclear programmes and activities involving radioisotopes. The Commission must also keep the European Parliament informed of this analysis.

The analysis will be based on the following:

  • the status of research and technological development work under way or scheduled;
  • the situation as regards techniques, works and installation construction projects completed, under way or scheduled;
  • the list of the storage installations which the Member States intend to construct and put into service;
  • the list of management practices and strategies defined or to be defined in the Member States in accordance with the safety rules applicable in each Member State;
  • the status of the administrative, regulatory and legal structures and frameworks relating to radioactive waste management in each Member State and in the Community.

- Development of technical cooperation in the Community in relation to the long-term or final storage of radioactive waste

Member States must:

  • promote concerted action and information exchange with regard to the study and opening up of long-term or final storage sites;
  • examine technical options and programmes concerning demonstration activities;
  • encourage technical cooperation in the field of storage.

- Concerted action on the safe management and storage of radioactive waste

Concerted action by the responsible national authorities, particularly on matters relating to safety, will be continued and intensified, making it possible to:

  • develop a common approach and work towards harmonisation at Community level on radioactive waste management strategies and practices wherever possible;
  • approximate national practices and regulations in the field of safety of disposal, with particular reference to the different waste categories;
  • draw up recommendations regarding safety assessment in the storage of radioactive waste and establish the relevant criteria;
  • achieve an equivalent and satisfactory degree of protection at the highest practical safety levels.

- Consultation on management practices and strategies in the context of the abolition of frontier controls within the Community

The national provisions that have been defined or are to be defined in relation to the management and storage of radioactive waste, which merits consideration in connection with the abolition of such controls, will be identified with a view to seeking whatever solutions are appropriate to ensure that the requirements of safety and the protection of members of the public, workers and the environment against the dangers of ionising radiation can be met.

- Continuity of interaction between research programmes and administrative, legal and regulatory issues

Regular consultations are held within the advisory committee on the plan so that:

  • a single framework can be provided for considering improvements to techniques for the final storage of waste;
  • a contribution can be made in establishing guidelines for research work in the field of radioactive waste.

- Information for the public

Member States will continue and intensify their efforts to provide the public with regular information on their activities in the field of radioactive waste management and storage, by drawing up, as far as possible, a common information strategy.

The Commission will make available to decision-makers and members of the public the findings and knowledge acquired in the context of Community research.

- Development of an international consensus

The plan promotes concerted action by the Member States on the positions to adopt in such international organisations as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

4) deadline for implementation of the legislation in the member states

Not required

5) date of entry into force (if different from the above)

6) references

Official Journal C 51, 29.02.1980Official Journal C 158, 25.06.1992

7) follow-up work

Council Resolution of 19 December 1994 on radioactive waste management [Official Journal C 379, 31.12.1994].

In its resolution, the Council welcomed the Community strategy and called on the Commission to continue its work with the assistance of the consultative committee set up for the plan of action.

It also calls on the Commission to determine the conditions for recycling and re-use of materials with a low level of radioactive contamination and reaffirms the importance of pressing on with efforts to reduce the volume and radiotoxicity of radioactive waste.

8) commission implementing measures

Recommendation - SEC(1999) 1302 final - Official Journal L 265, 13.10.1999 On 15 September 1999 the Commission adopted a recommendation on a classification system for solid radioactive waste.

The Resolution of 15 June 1992 emphasised the importance of concerted action on the safe management and storage of radioactive waste with a view to:

  • developing a common approach and promoting harmonisation at Community level of radioactive waste management strategies and practices;
  • approximating national practices and regulations in the field of safety of disposal;

The following classification is proposed:

  • transition radioactive waste (mainly of medical origin), which will decay within the period of temporary storage and may then be suitable for management outside the regulatory control system, subject to compliance with clearance levels;
  • low- and intermediate-level waste (LILW), whose concentration of radionuclides is such that generation of thermal power during its disposal is sufficiently low;
  • high-level waste, with such a concentration of radionuclides that generation of thermal power must be considered during its storage and disposal.

Given the current diversity of national waste classification systems, the Community system could initially be used alongside the national systems, until 1 January 2002.

The existence of a reference classification such as this will help the candidate countries draw up their radioactive waste management strategies.