Corporate report

Overview: international siting processes for geological disposal

Different national approaches to siting processes for the geological disposal of intermediate, high level radioactive waste or spent fuel.



This report reviews different national approaches to siting processes for the geological disposal of intermediate level, high level radioactive waste and/or spent fuel. This report focuses on:

  • how each country undertook, or is undertaking, the siting process for geological disposal facilities (GDFs)
  • the roles of local decision making bodies, national governments and the body responsible (the developer) for implementing a GDF
  • the level and timing of payment of benefits to local communities.

The countries covered in this report have defined waste management processes for deep GDF’s for the disposal of intermediate, high level radioactive waste and /or spent fuel. The experiences of different countries show a range of approaches to finding sites and seeking the involvement of local communities.

  • Canada – GDF for spent fuel
  • Canada – low and intermediate level waste disposal in the Municipality of Kincardine
  • Finland – GDF for spent fuel
  • France – underground research laboratory and GDF for long lived high level and intermediate level wastes
  • Japan – geological disposal of high level waste and some types of transuranic waste
  • Sweden – GDF for spent fuel
  • Switzerland – GDF for high level, low level and intermediate level waste
  • US – the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP); a GDF for defence-related waste containing long-lived radionuclides
  • US – Yucca Mountain; a GDF for spent fuel and high level waste.

The experiences described in this report encompass a spectrum of approaches to identifying suitable sites for hosting a geological disposal facility.

RWMD gathered the information in this report in cooperation with the radioactive waste management organisations (RWMOs) in each country and it has been checked for accuracy with each RWMO.

The main messages from the report are:

  • the programmes in each country reflect the political and cultural circumstances in each country
  • some siting processes faced setbacks in the early stages; before then proceeding with a revised process
  • local government is always involved as the representative of the community and, with the exception of Switzerland, has a decision making role in the process
  • the elected representatives of the community closest to where the disposal facility will be built (the local municipality) tend to be the local decision maker in the siting process
  • engagement with the issues, understanding and support at a local level is often higher than it is at a regional or national level
  • the benefits associated with a GDF which are made available to potential host communities vary from country to country in their approach, scope, amount and when they become available. In a number of countries, these benefits are scheduled to be made available in advance of the facility being constructed.