African countries looking to invest in nuclear energy as a source of clean electricity should consider Europe’s struggles with disposing of radioactive waste. Seventy years after the nuclear age began, no country has built a place to safely store its waste, a report published this caution, raising concerns for governments mulling nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels.
More than 60,000 tons of highly radioactive waste in the form of spent nuclear fuel rods are stored in interim sites across Europe, according to the World Nuclear Waste Report, some in old facilities that are running out of capacity and are expected to be used for decades longer than planned. Finland is the only country building a permanent repository underground for nuclear waste that emits large amounts of radiation for tens of thousands of years, according to the report published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation — which is affiliated with the German Green party.
At the dawn of the nuclear age, radioactive material was diluted and dumped in the environment, before governments moved towards containing it securely underground. But projects from the 1960s onwards only met high safety expectations “to a very limited extent, if at all,” according to the report.