Performance assessments for the geological storage of carbon dioxide: Learning from the radioactive waste disposal experience

The geological storage of carbon dioxide is currently being considered as a possible technology for reducing emissions to atmosphere. Although there are several operational sites where carbon dioxide is stored in this way, methods for assessing the long-term performance and safety of geological storage are at an early stage of development. In this paper the similarities and differences between this field and the geological disposal of radioactive wastes are considered. Priorities are suggested for the development of performance assessment methods for carbon dioxide storage based on areas where experience from radioactive waste disposal can be usefully applied. These include, inter alia, dealing with the various types of uncertainty, using systematic methodologies to ensure an auditable and transparent assessment process, developing whole system models and gaining confidence to model the long-term system evolution by considering information from natural systems. An important area of data shortage remains the potential impacts on humans and ecosystems.