NIRS and WISE both celebrate their 25th anniversaries this year. This is the fourteenth article in a series, "25 years ago", comparing anti-nuclear news "then" and "now", to mark our first quarter-century of anti-nuclear campaigning.
In issue 3 of WISE Bulletin we wrote about Dutch waste disposal plans: "Local opposition is growing to Dutch government plans to dump radio-active waste in salt formations in the province of Groningen in the north of the country. […] All local and regional elected bodies are now refusing their cooperation with the plans. But the Dutch government (conservative), is determined to press on with test drillings announced for spring of 1979. The pressure is on because the official Dutch position is a halt to building nuclear power reactors until a solution has been found to the waste problem." (WISE Bulletin, December 1978)
The test drillings, planned for 1979, were cancelled after a resolution in Dutch parliament in November 1978. But plans for waste disposal in a salt dome continued until today. Research shifted to desk studies, mainly using an extensive amount of data from oil exploration drillings (Kernafval en Kernethiek (NL), Laka Foundation, January 2000)
In 1981, the OPLA commission (Commission Storage on Land) was created for a new period of research (1981-1993). In its first report in 1989, salt domes and layers on 26 locations were identified as "suitable" for waste storage in the provinces Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe and Gelderland. (Kernafval in zee of zout? Nee fout! (NL), H. Damveld et. al., 1994)
This was in 1993 reduced to a number of 7, taking into account the depth of the dome, thickness and mining suitability. (OPLA Report 1a, November 1993)
From 1995 to 2000 work continued under the Commission for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (CORA). This commission under supervision of the ministry of Economic Affairs also reviewed the option of disposal in clay formations, in the south of the country as well as the possibility for long-term aboveground storage. CORA also studied retrievable storage, i.e. the possibility to retrieve the waste from a disposal site after a certain period of time.
The present government is setting up a new commission for another 8 years period of research. The purpose of this commission would be to have a more European coordinated and financed research (Letter Secretary of Environment, 11 November 2002).
After 25 years of research, the Netherlands still has made no choice what to do with the waste. The desk studies on salt and clay may have resulted in more information about geological formations, but no site has been thoroughly investigated as test drillings were not allowed. Resistance against the underground is still fierce and when the concerned provinces are being mentioned (in reports, media, etc.), they almost immediately state that their cooperation will not be made.
The official Dutch government position is to keep the waste for an "interim" period of 100 years at the COVRA facility in Flushing, near the Borssele NPP. Unofficially (but often mentioned) is the idea to wait for a "European solution", a multi-national disposal facility in one of the European countries.