The responsibility for safe radioactive waste storage in the Czech Republic has been taken over by the state on the basis of the so called Nuclear Act (Article 26 of Act No. 18/1997 Coll.). An organisational division called Radioactive Waste Disposal Administration (RWDA) has been established for associated activities. The mission of RWDA is to organise safe radioactive waste disposal in accordance with human requirements and environmental protection against the adverse effects of these wastes.
RWDA obtains finances for its activities from a so called nuclear account with CNB and from state grants. The nuclear account is contributed to by all producers of radioactive waste, the amount being determined in accordance with code No. 416/2002 Coll. For example, CEZ, the energy company contributes CZK 50 per 1 MWh produced in nuclear power plants. The municipalities supporting the radioactive disposal site on their territory receive CZK 1.5 million per year.
Besides contributing to the nuclear account each licensee of a nuclear facility operation creates a financial reserve for the liquidation of this facility in accordance with the Nuclear Act. Finances are raised throughout the operation of the facility and one of the RWDA’s duties is to regularly check these “savings”.
Radioactive waste and its disposal in the Czech Republic
In terms of volume, the largest part of radioactive waste coming from the operation of Czech nuclear power plants consists of low activity and medium activity waste. They lose their radioactivity in a few hundred years. The capacity of the radioactive disposal site operated by RWDA in the Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant (55,000 m3) area is sufficient for both Czech nuclear power plants for the duration of their lifetime. Low activity and medium activity waste are also deposited in the former Richard mine near Litoměřice. This disposal site, with a capacity of 8,000 m3, is used for wastes coming from the Health, Industry and Research sectors using radioactive materials. The old Bratrství mine near Jáchymov, with a capacity of 1,200m3, is for waste with natural radionuclides. The capacity of these disposal sites is sufficient for several decades.
High activity wastes and used nuclear fuel will be deposited in a deep disposal site. At this moment there is a need for two suitable sites following the state concept of radioactive waste and used nuclear fuel management and should be selected by 2015. It is assumed that the disposal site will be put into service in 2065. Until then, high activity wastes must be taken care of by its producers.
Spent nuclear fuel is currently stored in two storage facilities at the Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant. A storage facility was put into operation at Temelín in 2010. ČEZ decided to build an interim storage facility for spent fuel at the site of Skalka near Bystřice nad Pernštejnem as a backup facility for the Temelín Nuclear Power Plant as well as possible future new nuclear power units. ČEZ obtained planning permission in 2001, a survey is currently underway and the first stage of construction – construction of the fire-fighting water pool building – will be started in 2012.
Permanent deposit in the Czech Republic
The environment is protected from the harmful effects of nuclear power plant waste by its safe separation from the surrounding area. Radioactive waste and used nuclear fuel disposal is today resolved and realised in an absolutely safe manner. The used fuel containing high activity wastes may be deposited in deep disposal repositories. The permanent deposit of high activity radioactive wastes and used nuclear fuel is postponed due to technological development enabling both decreasing the activity of these wastes and shortening the half-life of radionuclides contained in the waste. Even without using these technologies (that is “direct depositing”) the natural dying out of the radionuclides and the decreasing evolution of after-heat during storage makes it easier for later manipulation and decreases the site size requirements.
Postponing the used nuclear fuel disposal for a later time is also justified by the possible use of this fuel as a raw material for obtaining fresh nuclear fuel for nuclear reactor operation should it be economical. Nuclear fuel material contains about 30 times more energy than was actually obtained from it.
The current construction of a similar site in the Nevada Desert, USA is being prepared (commissioned for service in 2010), in Sweden (proposed service commissioning in 2018) and in Finland (Olkiluoto – proposed service commissioning in 2020).