Plans to develop a public private partnership which will bring together European Union (EU) research work on radioactive waste under one umbrella have been unveiled by the European Commission (EC).

The new partnership, which is scheduled to start at the end of the year, will take the form of a joint undertaking and is expected to be funded to the tune of €40 million by the Seventh Euratom Research Framework Programme (FP7).

A recent cost/benefit analysis carried out by DG TREN (directorate general for transport and energy) has shown that a joint undertaking would be more efficient than current nuclear waste research practices under the framework programme.

The idea of a single body to conduct research into radioactive waste on a European level has been on the cards for over a year but is now expected to become reality with the research programme decided jointly by Euratom, research organisations, the nuclear energy sector, the European Investment Bank, social organisations and non-EU countries.

Research activities will be divided into three main sections: evacuation techniques; separation and transmutation technology; and transversal and socio-economic research. A supervisory body, comprising one representative from each member state and one from the commission, will ensure that the information is circulated and effective political control of the development of the joint undertaking’s activities will be assumed by the European Council, .

The Euratom funding will come from collaborative research funds allocated for radioactive waste management. A similar amount can also be expected from the commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC).

During the first quarter of 2006, the EC is to launch a call for expression of interest. The European Council’s approval for setting up the joint undertaking, scheduled for next summer, will not be given until it has adopted the FP7. The joint undertaking will then be launched in autumn 2006 and it will begin work in early 2007.

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