Nuclear Energy Agency Online Bulletin

July 2000

Radiation Protection Information

The new NEA report entitled Radiological Impacts of Spent Nuclear Fuel Management Options was presented at the annual meeting of the OSPAR Commission on 26-30 June in Copenhagen, Denmark. The OSPAR Commission is the acting body of the International Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic.*

In parallel to the Commission meeting, the OSPAR Working Group on Radioactive Substances examined the report and forwarded its findings and recommendations to the main Commission. Following the recommendations from the parallel Working Group and further discussions held during the main meeting, the OSPAR Commission expressed its satisfaction and gratitude to the NEA for a very good, comprehensive and authoritative study on this complex issue. The Commission considered that the study was scientifically sound and based on an internationally accepted methodology.

The NEA study concluded that the radiological impact on man from the reprocessing and non-reprocessing nuclear fuel cycle options is low, and that the difference between the two options is small. The highest radiological impact on the public arises from uranium mining and milling and the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

Although the OSPAR Commission considered that the study did not give a clear indication on the choice to be made between one option or the other, it was nevertheless noted that with regard to the marine environment, reprocessing of spent fuel results in discharges of radioactive substances into the OSPAR Convention area, and that these discharges are larger than those from non-reprocessing.

The OSPAR Commission recognised that the NEA study is a source of scientific knowledge and provides an important input to future OSPAR work on radioactive substances. The findings of the NEA study will assist the Commission in the implementation of the OSPAR Strategy with regard to Radioactive Substances.

Furthermore, it was pointed out that the NEA study outlined the need for further development of environmental quality criteria, an issue which is currently being addressed by several international organisations.

*More information about the OSPAR Commission can be found at