Disposal of HLW

Preparations for the Disposal of High Level Radioactive Wastes

In the last decades a broad international consensus has been reached on that the final disposal of high level and long lived low and intermediate level radioactive waste is technically feasible in deep geological repositories. International organizations (e.g.: IAEA, OECD NEA) involved in radioactive waste management have got a uniform view that repositories in carefully chosen and stable geological formation are suitable for both the direct disposal of spent nuclear fuel and for the disposal of residues from reprocessing of spent fuel. In most advanced countries in this field, like Finland and Sweden, the construction of such deep geological repositories already started and they are to be operational by the mid-2020’s.
Reflecting the broad consensus and international experience, the Hungarian national policy on the management of radioactive waste and spent fuel – approved by the Parliament in April 2015 –foresees the deep geological disposal of spent fuel in Hungary.
In Hungary no decision has been taken yet, how to close the nuclear fuel cycle. In principle, both direct disposal of spent fuel and disposal of residuals after spent fuel reprocessing are possible options. However, independently of the final decision both options need a deep geological repository. Investigations to select a site for a repository have to be carried out, which will require several decades.
In accordance with our national program for the management of radioactive waste and spent fuel, PURAM’s task is to set out decision points and context for future research and development towards a deep geological repository. PURAM is committed to the “DO and SEE” policy based on a phased approach.
The first investigations to find a site for a HLW repository using the infrastructure of a former uranium mine took place in the late 1990’s and confirmed the potential suitability of the Boda Claystone Formation (BFC) in the Mecsek region. After the closure of the uranium mine the investigations continued from the surface, and a country-wide screening proved that the BCF has the highest potential among the suitable rocks for a HLW repository.

The investigations were, however, repeatedly interrupted due to financial difficulties, and a revision of the whole program became necessary. To this end PURAM developed a new investigation plan, approved by the competent authority in 2013. The purpose of the on-going surface-based exploration is to select the target site and provide its general characterization. At the end of the current phase, the task is to designate the most appropriate 10–12 km2 within the 87 km2 of the potential repository area. The research will continue on this reduced site and in the end a territory of 1–2 km2 for the underground site and its associated surface facility area will be selected. Detailed geological characterization will also take place in this phase. The last phase of the surface-based investigation aims at the preparation of an underground research laboratory. PURAM intends to complete the site selection process by 2030, the planned end date of surface-based investigation.

It is not decided yet, whether the underground research laboratory will be the part of the repository. Independently of this decision the establishment of an underground research laboratory will be an important milestone of the project, because at this point the preliminary approval in principle of the Hungarian Parliament becomes necessary in order to start preparations for the construction of the HLW repository in accordance with the Act CXVI of 1996 on Atomic Energy.

Major milestones of the HLW repository project are the following:

  • 2017 – 2029 completion of the surface based site selection of an URL;
  • 2030 – 2037 construction of the URL;
  • 2038 – 2054 investigation in the URL;
  • 2055 – 2063 construction of the HLW repository;
  • 2064 – 2079 operation of the HLW repository;
  • 2080 – 2083 closure of the HLW repository.

The milestones above are adjusted to the date of the decommissioning of Paks Nuclear Power Plant, defining the timing of the commissioning and closure for the HLW repository.