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The Future of CO2 Storage: A Comparative Analysis with the Regulatory Regime of Radioactive Waste Management

29 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2009  

David Rossati

Salford Business School; University of Edinburgh, School of Law

Date Written: August 21, 2009


According to the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the sector of energy supply caused more than a fourth of the global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in 2004 . In a business-as-usual scenario CO2 emissions from the energy sector are estimated to increase of 130% by 2050 and fossil fuels still to remain the main source of energy production. In order to avoid such a tendency, the new technology of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is considered the only solution to drastically cut CO2 emissions from the energy sector. It is expected to contribute to one-fifth of the emission reductions that are believed to be necessary for the stabilization of global warming at 3°C by 2050 . CCS is currently facing many developments and several Research and Development (R&D) and full-scale projects are being realised around the world. At the same time legal responses for a progressive deployment of this technology are taking place at every level of legislation aiming at solving many issues raised by the literature and the stakeholders. This work focuses on the particular stage of the storage of CO2 in geological formations as compared to an analogous activity, the geological disposal of radioactive waste. Such a comparative analysis finds its justification on three different facts: both the activities consist of the long term storage at high depths underground of substances released by power stations (respectively carbon or gas, and nuclear); their realisation presents risks and entails issues of environmental and human health protection; finally, the fact that such substances will remain stored for thousands of years imposes burdens on future generations relating to the safe management and monitoring of the storage sites. Despite the analogies, several differences can be found in the normative processes on the two activities and different approaches to the matter have been undertaken at the various levels of legislation. As those legal asymmetries in treating a similar issue are a constant in international, European and UK law, nonetheless the concrete policies at every level are towards a deployment in the medium-long term of these activities. A comparative study of the structural components of the legal frameworks in the two technologies will help to better understand at ‘what point we are’ in the proper regulation of CO2 storage in UK; what pivotal elements of environmental law at international and European level still need to be implemented; and what is the role of the current UK regulation on a technology that still needs to be fully deployed.

Keywords: carbon capture and storage, climate change, radioactive waste, radioactive waste management, Kyoto protocol, clean development mechanism, geological disposal of radioactive waste, environmental safety, international environmental law, transboundary environmental protection, long-term liability

JEL Classification: K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Rossati, David, The Future of CO2 Storage: A Comparative Analysis with the Regulatory Regime of Radioactive Waste Management (August 21, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

David Rossati (Contact Author)

Salford Business School ( email )

The Lady Hale Building
Salford, Greater Manchester M5 4WT
United Kingdom

University of Edinburgh, School of Law ( email )

Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh, Scotland EH8 9JY
United Kingdom


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