PR:The government's approach to the siting process for a Geological Disposal Facility needs to change. The governmental Working Group for Dialogue has already been left by representatives of two sites.

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Press release by Calla and Green Circle dated June 23, 2016

The government's approach to the siting process for a Geological Disposal Facility needs to change.

The governmental Working Group for Dialogue has already been left by representatives of two sites.

Working Group (WG) for Dialogue on Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) for spent nuclear fuel has been left by representatives from the sites of Hrádek near Jihlava and Březový potok close to Pilsen. These are two out of the seven sites where the state is looking for a GDF for disposal of high-level radioactive waste. In addition, the Radioactive Waste Repository Authority (RAWRA/SÚRAO) intends to begin with geological surveys this year, despite the disapproving opinion of the population in municipalities threatened by the construction of the GDF. The siting process for a GDF in this form requires a change. First there is a need to set up rules well and then to look for solutions what to do with nuclear waste.

In Prague on June 23, 2016

Mayors and residents of municipalities that are facing the siting process for a GDF for spent nuclear fuel repeatedly criticize the flawed process led by the responsible government authorities. Although the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MPO) has established WG to transparently discuss the selection process with local representatives while taking the public interest into account, the state still forces the mayors and residents of communities to give their consent to geological surveys and insists on its demands.

During its procedure, RAWRA did not even respect the results of the 28 existing local referendums and the views of local councils and associations. Consequently, the established exploration areas in all seven sites are challenged by lawsuits filed by total of 18 municipalities and 6 associations.

One of the critical issues is existing legislation that does not give municipalities sufficient rights to defend their interests but which promotes the interest of the state instead. Therefore, WG prepared a proposal of the Act to involve municipalities in the siting process for a GDF, which requires municipalities’ approval of the establishment of a protected area under the Mining Act for two of the final sites. This happens at a time when it is still possible to choose between several options. The proposed approval is not an absolute veto, as is sometimes mistakenly interpreted because it gives the right to the Senate to overcome municipalities’ decision under certain conditions. Although this long-prepared Act was approved by WG in August 2015, even after almost a year MPO has not submitted it to the Government in the form of legislative proposal and it is very likely that by the end of the election period the Act will not manage to pass through the Parliament.

At the moment, spent fuel is stored in the vicinity of nuclear power plants in warehouses with a capacity of 3,800 tons in containers with a planned lifetime of 50 years. Therefore, the state wants to resolve the situation by the construction of a GDF, for which it selected seven possible sites. RAWRA is considering a disposal of up to 9 - 12,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel and other high-level waste. According to promoted plans, nuclear waste should end up isolated from the environment by steel containers surrounded by bentonite and granite at a depth of half a kilometer below the surface for hundreds of thousands of years.

RAWRA wants to decide about a final site for a GDF by 2025 and to start building an underground research facility (URF) there in 2035. GDF should be put into operation in 2065. This timetable holds reserves. It makes it possible to stop the process, enact the Act to remedy the status of municipalities, establish clearly which geological environment we need to find, for what amount of nuclear waste and prepare the criteria for selecting suitable sites in advance.

WG was created on RAWRA’s own initiative at the end of 2010. Within WG, representatives of RAWRA, MPO and the Ministry of the Environment, the State Office for Nuclear Safety (SONS/SÚJB) and the Czech Parliament, mayors from all sites, local and national civil society organizations and invited experts were supposed to negotiate together to strengthen the transparency of the siting process for a GDF while respecting the interests of the public. The fact that municipalities and associations are leaving WG, shows that the idea has not worked out.

Edvard Sequens of Calla said: "We are concerned about a crumbling governmental WG, because we regard cooperation with mayors and the public in all sites in order to promote their legitimate interests as very important. It turns out, however, that RAWRA and MPO are pushing for a quick selection of sites, regardless of the interests of the public, and WG is merely a pretense of dialogue."

Petra Nováčková, former member of WG representing the site of Hrádek, said: "Unfortunately, my initial hopes for a fair dialogue and transparent rules of game in WG proved to be very naive. We could not stay in the group which serves for RAWRA only to claim that it strives for a dialogue, although the reality is totally different. RAWRA is exploiting the fact that there is significantly less people who know the reality than those who are reached by this assertion of dialogue."

Jan Vavřička, mayor of Pačejov, announced: "We withdrew our representatives from WG by unanimous decision of the seven municipalities in the site of Březový potok. We regard RAWRA’s negotiations as nontransparent and because we do not want a GDF in our site, we did not feel like clearing the path towards it by arguing about some financial compensations either."

Daniel Vondrouš of Green Circle said: "The decision on the method of isolation of high-level waste for hundreds of thousands of years will fundamentally affect the lives of people. Affected municipalities, therefore, must be involved in the process in time. However, for nearly a year, MPO has been postponing Parliamentary negotiations about the Act that would enable this. State promises dialogue, but it actually prevents it."

Information for media
Green Circle is an association that brings together 26 major environmental non-governmental organizations operating in the Czech Republic. The Association is dedicated to the general monitoring of laws and policies, it coordinates legislative campaigns and provides active support with advocacy activities which focus on maintaining a quality environment and high level of civil rights in decision-making processes. It is engaged in long-term issue of public participation in decisions on plans and projects with impact on the environment. Green Circle also deals with coordinating the selection of non-governmental and female experts in interdisciplinary working groups and advisory boards and commissions of the Government and coordinates the establishment of joint observations, positions and public statements of environmental organizations about significant situations in environmental protection.

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