Czech state looking for place to store nuclear waste as EU deadline shortens

Dukovany nuclear power plant

The Ministry of Industry is looking for ways to speed up the planned construction of a nuclear waste facility in the Czech Republic, which would enable the country to fulfil the EU’s taxonomy plan for using nuclear energy as a clean source. However, the plan is running into opposition from local districts who don’t want nuclear waste stored near their homes.

The Czech Republic has two nuclear power plants, but nowhere to store its nuclear waste. At least in the long term. For now, nuclear waste is being stored in barrels located inside the power plants themselves, says Jiří Bezděk, the spokesman for the Dukovany nuclear power plant, who took Czech Radio on a tour of the facility.

“You can see we are now in the storage facility for used nuclear fuel. This fuel can be stored in containers for a period of up to 60 years. Thereafter, you can take it out, check the container and put the fuel back in for another six decades.”

Dukovany nuclear power plant | Photo: René Volfík,

The containers are kept in a hall, each of them connected to devices monitoring their temperature, radiation and pressure.

Officially, the used fuel inside these containers is not yet considered to be “nuclear waste“, because it can technically be recycled into a new type of fuel. However, this sort of recycling is not yet practiced in the Czech Republic and the owner of the waste, the state energy company ČEZ, is likely to eventually designate the containers as waste after which they will be handed over to the country’s Radioactive Waste Repository Authority (RWRA).

But therein lies the problem – for now the RWRA has nowhere to store the waste.

Originally, the Czech government counted on building a deep nuclear waste storage facility by 2065, but the EUs taxonomy plan which was agreed earlier this year, has cut that deadline to the year 2050.

Both Deputy Industry Minister Tomáš Ehler and the head of the country’s Nuclear Safety Office Dana Drábová have said that fulfilling the shorter deadline is possible on paper. However, it necessitates speeding up relevant research activities as well as finally deciding on where the state wants to build the storage facility.

Founded in 2001, the state’s Radioactive Waste Repository Authority has had over 20 years’ time to find a suitable storage location. And it has. Four locations were approved by the government as suitable prospective sites for a deep storage facility.

Edvard Sequens | Photo: Khalil Baalbaki,  Czech Radio

However, local residents of each of these proposed sites are strongly against the construction. Some of them have banded into the “Platform against deep storage”, a civic organisation that lobbies for an alternative to deep nuclear waste storage and for the construction of any such facility to be subject to a local district vote. The organisation’s secretary, Edvard Sequens, says that locals have more say in the process in other countries.

“Districts currently only have the right to comment on the proceedings, but the relevant ministry does not need to take these into consideration. In some countries, like Finland, which is ahead of the Czech Republic in constructing storage facilities for nuclear waste, local districts have a much better position. They can even have the right to veto such decisions, unless this veto is cancelled by the parliament.”

Finland’s deep storage facility is set to open next year. Sweden, France and Switzerland are also in the advanced stages of setting up similar facilities. The Czech Republic is set to decide on where to construct its storage facility by the end of this decade.