The general objective of the NEA in the field of radioactive waste management is to contribute to the adoption of safe and efficient policies and practices in Member countries, notably through technical feasibility and long-term safety studies. The main focus of the programme is on the strategies for the disposal of long-lived radioactive waste, mostly spent fuel and high-level waste from fuel reprocessing, and on the assessment of long-term safety and the evaluation of geological sites potentially suitable for the construction of underground disposal facilities.
The programme of work in the area of radioactive waste management is supervised by the Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC) assisted by three working parties:
The RWMC reviews progress in the implementation of waste disposal strategies and policies. Emphasis is placed on regulatory aspects of radioactive waste management in co-operation with the Committee on Nuclear Regulatory Activities (CNRA) and the Committee on Radiation Protection and Public Health (CRPPH). Specific studies also refer to non-technical issues such as economic matters, public information and social aspects. Peer reviews of national activities are carried out on request. Co-operative programme for the exchange of scientific and technical information concerning nuclear installation decommissioning projects
Co-operation between participants takes various forms and covers a broad range of topical issues in this field, such as decontamination and decommissioning techniques, cost studies, recycling and reuse of metals, as well as decommissioning policies.
The NEA works in close collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The programme of work of the two agencies are complementary. Results of these programmes are made available to the international nuclear community. Representatives of the European Commission also participate in most NEA activities.
The RWMC and its three working parties provide the overall forum for information exchange amongst the national programmes. Information exchanges are accomplished through written reports on activities within national programmes, and discussion amongst the national representatives. Main meetings, which occur once a year, provide the opportunity for discussing a variety of issues, including reports from other NEA Committees and Groups and progress of subordinate working groups' projects and workshops. Meetings usually have large block time devoted to one technical topic at which several presentations are given and then discussed in detail. These discussions provide each participating member with an in-depth view of advanced programmes in the particular subject. Detailed technical work is carried out by means of working groups, topical sessions, workshops or symposia, technical reviews. Working groups produce state-of-the-art reports and detailed analyses. Workshops and symposia provide opportunities for in-depth information exchange, communications and discussion of new ideas and hypotheses. The NEA publishes the proceedings of these workshops and symposia.
International peer reviews
A major NEA activity in the field of radioactive waste management is the organisation of independent, international peer reviews of national studies and projects. Following a request from the French Government, in 2005 the NEA organised an international peer review of documentation developed by Andra, collectively known as the Dossier 2005 Argile, by an international review team of independent specialists covering all relevant aspects of research, safety assessment and the geological sciences. The overall objective of the peer review was to inform the French Government whether the Dossier 2005 Argile is consistent with international practices, and whether future research needs are consistent with the available knowledge basis and priorities are well-identified. The NEA's report is now available online. Other NEA peer reviews have examined the Post-closure Radiological Safety Assessment for Disposal in the Opalinus Clay of the Zürcher Weinland and the Belgian R&D Programme on the Deep Disposal of High-level and Long-lived Radioactive Waste.
Safety Cases for the Deep Disposal of Radioactive Waste: Where do we stand?
23-25 January 2007, Paris, France
Last updated: 2 April 2012