European Union (EU) energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs has called on EU national governments to increase their spending on radioactive waste management research.

Speaking to a Brussels workshop on the topic, he said spending “in many – but not all – member states is not sufficient to make real progress in the short to medium term.” Latvia’s first European commissioner stressed increased research should focus on areas that “merit increased collaborative efforts, greater concentration of means and better exchanges of experience and know-how.”

One particular subject was partitioning and transmutation, with Piebalgs saying “this is clearly a potential technology for use in the future”. He said such studies would be encouraged by a planned EU waste management ‘joint undertaking’, which would also examine the underground disposal of radioactive waste. Here, Piebalgs advocated research into whether specific sites or geological formations were suitable to host waste repositories. “The underground laboratories in operation or under construction in some member states are excellent examples of what other member states should also consider doing.”

He added that for some waste, “deep geological repositories appear – for the time being – the only safe and sustainable option available,” with surface or sub-surface storage being “unsustainable” and a potential terrorist target.

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