Currently, there is no geological disposal repository for long-lived high-level radioactive waste anywhere in Europe. Several experiments are being conducted in underground test laboratories. Sweden and France are currently working on the realisation of geological disposal repositories. A geological disposal repository is being built in Finland, and a deep underground disposal is already active in the United States. This is a geological disposal site for military waste: the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico.
Are there already countries that are actively working on the geological disposal of radioactive waste?
Is there a difference in the performance of nuclear transport in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium?
The measures for the transport of radioactive substances in these countries are similar. In the event it concerns cross-border transport, this is coordinated with the countries involved.
Who is responsible for the transport of nuclear materials?
The permit holder who organises the transport is primarily responsible for the transport. The central government is responsible for supervising compliance with radiation safety. The government is also responsible for the security that the permit holder cannot provide itself, such as police protection. This is the responsibility of the National Police. The Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Authority (ANVS) and the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) supervise both the safety and the security of the transport.
What requirements apply to this permit?
The permit indicates how many transports may take place, during which period and how much radioactive waste we may transport per consignment. The permit also indicates which type of transport container must be used and the requirements it must meet. In addition, the permit imposes requirements on transport safety, radiation protection and transport security. Furthermore, we must adhere to certain transport routes and there are agreements on communication and coordination with the competent authorities.
Does COVRA need a permit for the transport of nuclear materials?
Yes, for the transport of radioactive waste, COVRA has the status of an approved collection and storage service. In addition, COVRA has a permit for the transport, import, transit and export of nuclear fuels and a permit for the transport of HASS sources (High-activity Sealed Radioactive Sources).
Are the employees who are involved in the transport exposed to radiation?
Very stringent requirements apply to the personnel involved in the transport. These requirements are part of the transport permit. COVRA ensures that exposure of the personnel to radiation is minimised. We therefore thoroughly check the containers containing radioactive waste for radiation. The ANVS inspectors monitor this closely. The radiation dose that the personnel receive is very low; even less than the dose that you receive during an X-ray at the dentist or a flight to the United States.
What kind of radioactive material is actually transported?
Most transports involve low and intermediate-level radioactive waste, such as medical isotopes of hospitals, and radioactive sources, which have been used, for example, to carry out inspections of welding work. These transports take place by road with a truck or a specially equipped van. There are also transports of high-level radioactive waste from the large nuclear installations in the Netherlands. The nuclear power plant in Borssele and the research reactors in Petten and Delft require fresh nuclear fuel elements every year. These installations must then dispose of their spent fuel elements. The nuclear power plant first transports these spent fuel elements to France for recycling. The reprocessing waste generated by the reprocessing of nuclear fuel is then transported by train from France to COVRA. The spent nuclear fuel elements of the research reactors are sent directly to COVRA. There are also regular transports of UF6. This is a raw material for the production of fuel elements for nuclear power plants and research reactors. This raw material is transported to COVRA from the Urenco enrichment plant in Almelo.