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Radioactive waste and spent fuel

The EU rules require that all EU countries have a national policy for spent fuel and radioactive waste management.

Radioactive waste is mainly generated from the production of electricity in nuclear power plants or from the non-power-related use of radioactive materials for medical, research, industrial and agricultural purposes. All EU countries generate radioactive waste, and 20 of them also manage spent fuel on their territory.

Owing to its radiological properties and the potential hazard it poses, it is important to ensure the safe management of radioactive waste at all stages. It requires containment and isolation from humans and the living environment over a long period of time.

Progress has been made in safely disposing of very low level and low level waste in the EU, and so far Finland, France and Sweden have selected sites for the deep geological disposal of intermediate and high level waste from civilian facilities. It is likely that they will open the first repositories for these kinds of waste between 2024 and 2035.

National programmes and reports

The EU's Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management Directive 2011/70/Euratom requires that all EU countries have a national policy for spent fuel and radioactive waste management and that they draw up and implement national programmes for the management of these materials. The programmes should cover all types of spent fuel and radioactive waste under EU countries’ jurisdiction and all stages of spent fuel and radioactive waste management from generation to disposal.

Every 3 years since August 2015, EU countries submit national reports on the implementation of the directive to the Commission. Based on those,  the Commission drafts a report on the overall implementation of the directive and an inventory of radioactive waste and spent fuel present in the Community’s territory and the future prospects.

The below list provides links to each national programme and the national reports, as submitted by EU countries.

In the reference period covered by the second national reports (2018), the United Kingdom was still a Member State of the Euratom Community.

EU countries carry out self-assessments and invite international peer reviews of their national framework, competent authorities and/or national programme at least every 10 years (by August 2023).

The export of radioactive waste for disposal in countries outside the EU is allowed only under strict conditions.