Radioactive waste consists of radioactive materials that no longer have any further use. They arise during the operation of nuclear power plants as well as from the useful and peaceful application of radioactive substances in medicine, industry and research and where disused facilities are decommissioned. This waste needs to be transported, conditioned, temporarily stored and eventually disposed of in a final repository.
Radioactive waste in Austria results from the many useful applications of radioactive materials in medicine, industry and research as well as the dismantling of old facilities and installations (decommissioning). All of this radioactive waste belongs exclusively to the category of low- and intermediate-level waste.
Background: Low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste contains radionuclides with a half-life of up to 30 years (for example cesium-137 or strontium-90). It may also contain a limited amount of longer-lived radionuclides. This type of waste does not give off warmth and is usually stored in near-surface final repositories or repository mines.
No high-level radioactive waste or spent nuclear fuel elements from nuclear power plants need to be stored in Austria. This is because the construction and operation of nuclear power plants for the purpose of energy production is prohibited by the Austrian constitution and the fuel elements from the research reactor at Vienna University of Technology will be returned to their supplier (the US Department of Energy) at the end of its runtime.
No! No high-level radioactive waste is produced in Austria. As Austria does not operate a nuclear power plant no high-level radioactive waste or spent fuel elements need to be stored in a final repository. The spent fuel elements in the research reactor at the Vienna University of Technology will be sent back to their supplier (US Department of Energy) as stated in the procurement contract. This has a significant impact on the Austrian situation regarding the disposal of radioactive waste: the technical and financial requirements for the final storage of the types of radioactive waste created in Austria are much lower compared to countries with nuclear power plants.
The processing, conditioning and temporary storage of the radioactive waste produced in Austria is carried out by Nuclear Engineering Seibersdorf Ltd. (NES). The state-of-the-art temporary storage facility in Seibersdorf has been gradually upgraded over the last years. The temporary storage of Austria’s radioactive waste in Seibersdorf is fixed contractually until the year 2045.
No! The decision making process for the location and type of final repository is very extensive and will likely take many years. In its first three years the Austrian Board for Radioactive Waste Management will carry out a survey of the status quo. This includes an inventory of the radioactive waste in Austria and an overview of all possible options for the final storage of radioactive waste in Austria.