International experience, Phil Matthews, Executive Director, Nuleaf

Members of the GMF Presidium holding sustainability awards

GMF members receive sustainability awards


Nuclear communities the world over are both similar and different.

They are similar in that local people, and the local authorities that represent them, are concerned with the same issues: employment, environmental protection, safety, the move to the next planned use after decommissioning.

They are different in many ways too: in some countries nuclear generation is ended or coming to an end, and the focus is solely on the decommissioning mission. In others, including the UK, various new nuclear technologies are proposed. These similarities and differences underpin the value of international dialogue. We can learn so much from the experience of others.

Countries such as Finland and Sweden are ahead of the UK in the development of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) and can share their insights on the complex interaction between the political, economic, social and technical aspects of repository development.

Dialogue with municipalities in Spain or Hungary can highlight innovative approaches to socio-economic support for nuclear communities; while engagement with the French is useful given that it is their company, EDF that is working with the NDA to oversee the closure and decommissioning of the UK’s current AGR power stations.

The Covid pandemic has made international engagement challenging, and so it was especially pleasing to be able to join my GMF Europe colleagues in Barcelona at the end of November.

GMF (Group of Municipalities with Nuclear Facilities) was set up a quarter of a century ago to act as the voice of local authorities on nuclear issues across the continent. It is a growing network, with members from Russia to Spain and from Sweden to Bulgaria. All have useful perspectives to share, along with a real interest in the UK’s large and complex nuclear legacy.

In Barcelona we agreed to set up a new pan-European decommissioning group, and to enhance our work on geological disposal. Looking forward, in 2022 we plan site visits to Krsko in Slovenia and Borsele in the Netherlands. The Krsko plant was developed in the former Yugoslavia and its waste liabilities are shared by Slovenia and Croatia, while Borsele has taken forward an innovative approach to waste storage and public engagement.

Nuleaf’s work with GMF, and our engagement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the EURAD research programme have grown significantly in recent years. All help to build our understanding and ability to engage within the UK – long may this international dialogue continue.

Philip Matthews, Executive Director

December 2021