The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) has just presented to the Belgian authorities the outcome of an international peer review on “Key aspects of the safety case for a radioactive waste surface disposal facility in Belgium”. The review examines the credibility and robustness of the long-term safety strategy and the long-term safety assessment documented in the draft safety case being prepared by the national radioactive waste management agency, ONDRAF/NIRAS. The draft safety case is being prepared for a license application for the construction and operation of a surface disposal facility for short-lived, low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste in the municipality of Dessel.
The review provides the Belgian authorities, the Belgian public and relevant organisations an international view on the maturity of ONDRAF/NIRAS’s waste disposal programme and its safety approach vis-à-vis international best practices and recommendations.
The international peer review team, consisting of seven international specialists, has concluded the following:
A key NEA activity in the field of radioactive waste management is the organisation of independent, international peer reviews of national studies and projects.
At the request of the Belgian government, the NEA Secretariat established an international review team (IRT) to perform the peer review cited above. The IRT consisted of seven international specialists from the Czech Republic, France, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the NEA Secretariat. The review team experts had no conflict of interest with ONDRAF/NIRAS and were chosen to bring complementary expertise to the review, in accordance with the Terms of Reference. The IRT was led by Maria Carmen Ruiz Lopez of the Spanish nuclear regulatory authority Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear. Further information on the review team members can be found in the report. During the review, the NEA Secretariat also served as the contact point between the IRT and the Belgian counterparts.
The experts reviewed the documentation provided to the review team and considered the additional information that ONDRAF/NIRAS supplied both in writing and as part of information exchanges during two working seminars, including a site visit in Belgium. In keeping with NEA procedures for independent reviews, neither the Belgian government nor ONDRAF/NIRAS have commented on this report, although ONDRAF/NIRAS had an opportunity to ensure the factual correctness of the review.
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NEA membership consists of 33 countries. The mission of the NEA is to assist its member countries in maintaining and further developing, through international co‑operation, the scientific, technological and legal bases required for a safe, environmentally sound and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It strives to provide authoritative assessments and to forge common understandings on key issues as input to government decisions on nuclear energy policy and to broader OECD analyses in areas such as energy and the sustainable development of low‑carbon economies.