European Union: A coalition of member states is urging the Commission to consider allowing nuclear energy to be eligible for EU financing mechanisms. Despite accounting for the largest individual share of the European Union’s domestic production of primary energy, ahead of gas and renewables, nuclear energy has been noticeable for its absence from the European Commission’s energy union plans. The strategy presented by the commission acknowledges that nuclear energy produces about 30% of the EU’s electricity but does not refer to it as part of the EU’s low carbon economy. Nuclear is, however, briefly mentioned under the fifth pillar of the energy union, in which the commission stresses that the EU should maintain technological leadership within the nuclear domain.
Technologies that will enable nuclear waste to be sealed 5km below the Earth’s surface could provide a safer, cheaper and more viable alternative for disposing of the UK’s high level nuclear waste. Scientists at the University of Sheffield calculate that all of the UK’s high level nuclear waste from spent fuel reprocessing could be disposed of in just six boreholes 5km deep, fitting within a site no larger than a football pitch. The concept – called deep borehole disposal – has been developed primarily in the UK but is likely to see its first field trials in the USA next year. If the trials are successful, the USA hopes to dispose of its ‘hottest’ and most radioactive waste – left over from plutonium production and currently stored at Hanford in Washington State – in a deep borehole.