Belgium's answer to studying nuclear waste management

February 6, 2003

Brussels, 05 Feb 2003

EU Commissioner for Research, Philippe Busquin and Energy and Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio visited the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCKCEN) in Moll, Belgium, on 4 February to find out more about an underground laboratory which studies the feasibility of storing high level radioactive waste in clay.

The Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCKCEN), in collaboration with ONDRAF/NIRAS, has set up the High Activity Disposal Experimental Site (HADES) project, which is exploited by the European underground research infrastructure for disposal of nuclear waste in clay environment (EURIDICE). This joint venture was created to bring together the knowledge and experience of both organisations and has been largely funded by the European Commission

'The role [of HADES] is central to the study and the development of deep storage concepts. It is a unique scientific and technical tool for training and establishing collaborative international multidisciplinary research groups,' said Jean-Paul Minon, Director General of the Belgian agency for radioactive waste and enriched fissile materials (ONDRAF/NIRAS).

The HADES laboratory is excavated at a depth of 224 meters in a layer Boom clay. It concentrates on the chemical reactions of the waste forms to be disposed of with the environment, and the migration of radio elements.

According to Frank Deconinck, chairman of SCK-CEN, projects such as HADES help 'contribute to Europe's leadership in the field [of nuclear research].'

Indeed, HADES is the only underground laboratory in the world to explore the feasibility of the disposal of high level radioactive waste in plastic clay.

Coupled with the preliminary demonstration test for clay disposal of highly radioactive waste (PRACLAY) demonstration project, researchers will be able to test and further investigate to actual size, and at the heat production level expected, the concept of geological disposal in the Boom clay.

The Boom clay at Mol is 32 million years old and already by nature contains uranium, thorium and long lived isotopes. The research carried out in Mol suggests that the clay offers a safe solution.

Thanks to the European Joint Research Centre (JRC) and initiatives under the framework programmes, HADEs has been able to grow over the last twenty years. In particular, a second access shaft and an additional gallery have been constructed on the site.

It is hoped the laboratories like HADES will contribute to the development of underground disposal units for highly radioactive wastes, which are essential if Member States are to comply with the recently proposed directives calling for operational waste burial sites throughout Europe by 2013.

For further information about the activities of SCKCEN, please visit:
http://www.sckcen.be/index.shtml

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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