Determining the future for irradiated graphite disposal

Neighbour, G. B.; Wickham, A. J. and Hacker, P. J. (2000). Determining the future for irradiated graphite disposal. Nuclear Energy, 39(03) pp. 179–186.



In recent years, proposals have been made for the longterm treatment of radioactive graphite waste which have ranged from sea dumping through incineration to land-based disposal, sometimes preceded by a variable period of 'safe storage' within the original reactor containment. Nuclear regulators are challenging the proposed length of 'safe storage' on the basis that essential knowledge may be lost. More recently, political constraints have further complicated the issue by eliminating disposal at sea and imposing a 'near-zero release' philosophy, while public opinion is opposed to land-based disposal and has induced a continual drive towards minimizing radioactivity release to the environment from disposal. This paper proposes that, despite various international agreements, it is time to review technically all options for disposal of irradiated graphite waste as a framework for the eventual decisionmaking process. It is recognized that the socio-economic and political pressures are high and therefore, given that all currently identified options satisfy the present safety limits, the need to minimize the objective risk is shown to be a minor need in comparison to the public's want of demonstrable control, responsiveness and ability to reverse/change the disposal options in the future. Further, it is shown that the eventual decision-making process for a post-dismantling option for graphite waste must optimize the beneficial attributes of subjective risk experienced by the general public. In addition, in advocating and preferred option to the general public, it is recommended that the industry should communicate at a level commensurate with the public understanding and initiate a process of facilitation which enables the public to arrive at their own solution and constituting a social exchange. Otherwise it is concluded that if the indecision over disposal options is allowed to continue then, by default, graphite will remain in long-term supervised storage.

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