© Philip Reynaers / Greenpeace

An international scandal came to the steps of the European Parliament today as Greenpeace delivered four consignments of nuclear waste to MEPs.

The waste is harmful and exceeds European environmental limits. It and other more harmful radioactive wastes produced by Europe’s nuclear reactors will pose a deadly threat to its citizens and environment for hundreds of thousands of years to come.

A solution to this problem has evaded scientists ever since the invention of nuclear power 60 years ago. Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of high-level nuclear waste litter the globe and yet we are no nearer to properly safeguarding it to protect ourselves and future generations.

The European Commission is about to release a law telling us the problem has been solved. It believes storing nuclear waste deep underground in specially built facilities is a safe and long-term solution. Unfortunately, the Commission has been misled by its scientific advisers. 

The law - which MEPs are about to advise on - is nothing more than a public relations exercise designed to convince the people of Europe that the problem of nuclear waste can be solved.

But let us be clear: There is no solution to nuclear waste.

In her recent report Rock Solid? A scientific review of geological disposal of high-level radioactive waste (see http://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/press-centre/reports/rock-solid-a-scientific-review ) Genewatch UK's Dr Helen Wallace reviewed the scientific journal papers written about so-called deep geological storage and came to some alarming conclusions.

‘There are blanks in our understanding of deep storage; cracks that are papered over at our peril,’ says Dr Wallace. ‘We are talking about trying to bury thousands of tonnes of highly dangerous waste for longer than people have existed on Earth. It would be a mind-boggling engineering triumph which, if miscalculated, could release highly radioactive waste into our groundwater or seas for centuries, so far below ground that there will be nothing we can do about it.

© Philip Reynaers / Greenpeace

The European Commission must realise that there is no solution to the deadly waste produced by nuclear reactors. An average nuclear reactor produces between 25-30 tonnes of high-level waste each year. Europe has 195 reactors. Plans must be drawn up immediately to cease the further production of this waste by phasing out nuclear power across Europe. The waste we already have – like that delivered by Greenpeace today - should be managed according to sound science, not wishful thinking and crossed fingers. We owe it to ourselves and to those who come after us.

(More details can be found on the Greenpeace European Unit website. Greenpeace UK climber Olaf Bayer is reporting on the action from atop a flagpole outside the European Parliament. Follow him Twitter here with the #NuclearParl hashtag.)

Update: The first photos of the action can be seen here.

Update: Video is available here. More photos are here.