Swiss group calls for nuke waste reversibility

Experts recommend long-term monitoring, control, retrievability, after public pressure

A group of Swiss experts has recommended that long-lived radioactive wastes should be disposed of deep underground, but that storage facilities should be designed to enable future retrieval. Such a move would drastically increase the costs of building waste repositories, but has been strongly demanded by sections of the Swiss population.

Published in Berne yesterday, the report is one in a series of studies published after voters in the canton of Nidwalden rejected a plan to site an underground radioactive waste disposal facility in the Wellenberg mountain in 1995. Progress on Switzerland's new nuclear energy law has been held up pending its conclusions.

The study, which was commissioned by the Swiss energy ministry, says that the most important aim when disposing of nuclear waste is protection of man and environment without any time limit. The experts foresee an extended monitoring phase allowing future generations to retrieve the waste if necessary.

Energy ministry official Michael Aebersold told ENDS Daily that the government would now develop new policies based on the experts' recommendations. He estimated additional annual costs of the proposals at up to SFr1bn (euros 622m) on top of the current bill of SFr6bn.

Follow Up:
Swiss energy ministry, tel: +41 31 322 5511. A press release dated 7 February is posted on the ministry's web site.

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