Radioactive waste management and decommissioning

    Overview and working groups

    The NEA seeks to assist its member countries in developing safe, sustainable and societally acceptable strategies for the management of all types of radioactive materials, with particular emphasis on the management of long-lived waste and spent fuel and on decommissioning of disused nuclear facilities. The programme of work in these areas is carried out for the most part by the Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC) assisted by three working parties and their subgroups:

    Other NEA Committees also have interests in this field: the Committee on Radiation Protection and Public Health (CRPPH) and the Nuclear Development Committee (NDC).

    RWMC mandate and structure

    The NEA Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC) created in 1975 is an international committee of senior representatives from regulatory authorities, radioactive waste management and decommissioning organisations, policy making bodies, and research-and-development institutions from the NEA countries. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) participates in the work of the RWMC, and the European Commission (EC) is a full member of the Committee. The RWMC maintains strong ties with national high-level advisory bodies to governments and with transnational bodies such as the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). Collaboration also takes place with the Governance directorate of the OECD.

    The purpose of the RWMC is to support international co-operation in the management of material from nuclear installations, including facility decommissioning and long-term waste management. The Committee implements a programme of work that:

    • fosters a shared and broad-based understanding of the state of the art and emerging issues;
    • facilitates the elaboration of waste management strategies that respect societal requirements;
    • helps to provide common bases to the national regulatory frameworks;
    • enables the management of radioactive waste and materials to benefit from progress of scientific and technical knowledge, e.g., through joint projects and specialist meetings;
    • contributes to knowledge consolidation and transfer, e.g., through the publication of technical reports, consensus statements and short flyers; and
    • helps to advance best practice, e.g., by supporting international peer reviews.

    The regulator members of the RWMC also participate in a separate Regulators' Forum (RWMC RF) through which they discuss and report on topics of specific regulatory interest and which determines, where appropriate, how such issues are progressed within the full Committee.

    Overall, the RWMC is a unique multinational committee of specialists at the forefront in addressing both the technical and societal requirements for durable and sustainable waste management and decommissioning solutions. It provides a neutral forum where policy makers, regulators and implementing organisations can discuss issues of common interest and develop solutions that meet the diverse needs of its participants.

    RWMC flyers

    • Geological Disposal of Radioactive Wastes: National Commitment, Local and Regional Involvement  
    • Radiological Protection and Geological Disposal: The Guiding Principles and Recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP)
        
    • The Construction and Operation of Geological Disposal Facilities for High-level Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel: Challenges and Opportunities   
    • Radioactive Waste Management and Decommissioning at the NEA   
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    • Preservation of Records, Knowledge and Memory across Generations (2011)
        
    • International Understanding of Reversibility of Decisions and Retrievability of Waste in Geological Disposal   
    • Preservation of Records, Knowledge and Memory across Generations (2014)   

    Recent activities and products

    • The RWMC cooperates in the organisation of the 4th International Conference on Geological Repositories (ICGR-2012, Toronto, Canada, 30 Sept– 3 Oct 2012).
    • The latest collective statement of the RWMC (2011) is entitled “Geological Disposal of Radioactive Wastes: National Commitment, Local and Regional Involvement”;
    • The yearly multi-stakeholder national workshop takes place in the Czech Republic (Oct. 2012)
    • Preparing and reviewing the construction license for the first deep geological repositories for High Level Waste (HLW) and Spent Fuel (SF) will be an important challenge over the next decade. An international workshop was held on this topic in January 2012. The proceedings can be downloaded here.
    • A task group clarifies procedures  for decommissioning cost estimates in order to create an international common culture and foster harmonisation;
    • A major peer review was completed in Sweden focusing on the long-term safety case for a spent fuel repository in that country; the peer review of the Belgian safety case for their low and intermediate level waste surface disposal facility will reach completion by October 2012. 
    • Dialogue with ICRP has taken place and is resulting in the update of ICRP fundamental guidance in the field of disposal;
    • RWMC member country information is made available in the form of a 30-page country reports and/or country profiles; a summary of the regulatory infrastructure in NEA countries is also provided;
    • Current topics in disposal include: optimisation, dealing with very long time scales, assessing the state of the art in safety assessment methods, and preparing for the licensing of geological repositories;
    • Current topics in decommissioning include:, research and development needs in decommissioning and costing and cost control of decommissioning projects;
    • Current topics in societal confidence include: the interests and roles of regional authorities, how to increase the knowledge base of journalists, providing added value (beyond economic benefits) to communities hosting waste management facilities.

    Documents

    Publicly available RWMC documents since the year 2000 are accessible via the following link. 
    Most documents are downloadable.

    Complete list of documents organised by subject, including links

    Password-protected pages

    Contact

    Last reviewed: 18 July 2014