Like the Americans, the Europeans and Japanese launched nuclear development on a commercial scale without the means to dispose of the radioactive waste to be generated. Such means are still lacking today. In certain nations, repository siting faces especially severe geologic and political constraints. Japan, noted for its earthquakes, volcanic activity, and high population density, is perhaps the clearest case in point. The United Kingdom, as a small, wet, densely populated island nation that has made serious mistakes in its past handling of nuclear wastes, also has proved to be an unsympathetic political environment for repository projects. Then there are such small nations as Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland: they face a variety of constraints, geologic or political (if not both), and for any one of them to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a repository for the waste from one to fewer than a half-dozen reactors makes little economic sense.
To see how Europe's leaders in nuclear power and technology have fared and are faring with their nuclear fuel cycle and radioactive waste problem, one should turn to France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Sweden. France has by far the largest nuclear program of the four, but each of them has been importantly committed to fission energy.1 The Swedish program is the smallest, but as measured in generating capacity it is only slightly behind the British program, and on a per capita basis Sweden's commitment to nuclear power has been greater than that of any country in the world. Sweden is of interest also because of its policy--initiated by a somewhat ambiguous referendum decision--to phase out nuclear power entirely in the next century.____________________