Czech environment minister cancels nuke waste repository site survey

Jan. 6, 2014 at 12:03 AM
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BRNO, Czech Republic, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Exploration of an area of the southeastern Czech Republic as a site for long-term radioactive waste storage has been canceled, the environment ministry says.

Czech Republic Environment Minister Tomas Podivinsky announced Friday a planned geological survey of the Kravi Hora site in the state of Moravia for a long-planned deep geological repository for spent nuclear fuel has been scrapped and must be started over.

Podivinsky said the determination was made because the objections of local mayors and environmental groups hadn't been properly considered, the Czech news agency CTK reported.

The government is hoping to begin construction of a nuclear waste storage facility by 2050 to hold spent fuel from six nuclear reactors operated by CEZ, which is currently using interim storage facilities. An underground warehouse would be built at a depth of 300-to-3,000 feet below the surface.

Kravi Hora, or Cow Mountain, was added to a list of five potential depository sites by the Czech Radioactive Waste Repository Authority, SURAO, in 2011, but didn't go through the same public participation process as the others, which were initially begun in 2002.

Kravi Hora is close to a former uranium mine and is situated in an area between two north-south faults and containing significant uranium veins.

Its selection was based on the assumption that local residents wouldn't be opposed to the development, given that uranium mining has been conducted in the area for 55 years by the company tasked with building the repository, DIAMO, a European Union-backed study reported.

A Czech environmental group, Calla, and several townships protested and filed an appeal to the government, which was upheld Friday by the environment ministry.

"Because of a conflict between a decision of the ministry and legislation, I find that the ministry's decision did not deal with all the objections raised by the appellants," Podivinsky said.

"The decision of the Ministry of Environment is welcome," Martin Schenk of Don't Store at Kravi Hora Association told CTK. "This is the first decision after nearly 12 months in which representatives of the state have at least partially taken into account the opposition of local communities on the determination of the exploration area."

Residents in the targeted areas have been offered compensation but some fear exploration for a nuclear waste depository will result in destruction of the landscape.

Referendums conducted in towns near the Kravi Hora site yielded contradictory results.

In Bukove, 52 percent of the population voted against conducting a geological survey, while in nearby Stritez, most of the population supported it.

The legislative agreement with DIAMO required that all needed to be in agreement to proceed.

"This does not mean that we have ceased their activities in the area of ​ Kravi Hora, but will continue in order to fulfill the decision of the minister," SURAO Deputy Director George Sovak told the Czech online newspaper "The goal is to find those locations where the villages will agree with the final storage locations. Consequently, we want to make the best-informed decision on the project and we look for future compliance."

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