Nuclear Waste:

Foreign Countries' Approaches to High-Level Waste Storage and Disposal

RCED-94-172: Published: Aug 4, 1994. Publicly Released: Aug 24, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on foreign countries' approaches for managing civilian high-level waste, the lessons that can be learned from these countries' experiences.

GAO noted that: (1) although the other countries' approaches to nuclear waste disposal could offer insights for managing U.S. nuclear waste, the United States needs to consider the social and economic factors that have influenced other countries' nuclear waste program development; (2) although all of the countries reviewed support the use of geologic repositories for disposal of highly radioactive waste, none of the countries have built operational facilities; (3) all of the countries have encountered difficulties with their waste management programs; (4) the most difficult problem in repository development is site selection; (5) Germany is the only country that has a potential repository site, but it faces substantial opposition; (6) several countries have redirected their waste disposal programs in response to significant opposition to proposed research or repository site selection; (7) unlike the United States, all of the countries have addressed temporary waste storage and allowed utilities a high degree of flexibility in developing technical and engineering repository concepts; (8) the ongoing debate over the federal government's responsibilities for nuclear waste storage has seriously affected the repository program; and (9) although many countries are exploring the use of long-lived engineered barriers for containing radiation in their planned repositories, the Department of Energy has limited its research on engineered barriers.

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