Many established nuclear power programmes have learned to their dismay that waste management and disposal are not tasks that can be postponed at will if public and political acceptance is a prerequisite for progress. The IAEA, and also the EC, have published key overarching advisory documents for new nuclear programmes. These are useful for strategic planning but, when it comes to actual implementation projects, the advice tends to imply that all nuclear programmes, however large or small, should be pressing ahead urgently towards early operation of geological repositories. In practice, however, in small programmes there major differences drivers. Reprocessing is irrelevant; multidecade storage of spent fuel is an issue (especially after Fukushima); there are neither economic nor technical drivers for early implementation of deep geological repositories.
Nevertheless, in all countries political decisions have to be taken and policies set in place to ensure that geological disposal will implemented without unjustified delay. Even if disposal is far off, planning and organization should begin at the initiation of the programme; this can help with technical and economic optimization and (importantly) also with public and political acceptance. Implementation of a national deep geological repository will feasible only in the far future, if ever. Nevertheless, even small programmes need a national strategy. A sensible approach however can be to couple this with consideration of shared regional facilities for disposal (and perhaps storage) of spent fuel. This so-called “dual track” approach is being adopted by various countries in Europe and in the Gulf region. It could be applicable in SEA where long established nuclear programmes such as those in Japan and Korea could cooperate with potential newcomers like Malaysia, Indonesia Bangladesh and the Philippines.