Regulators' Forum

Overview

The Regulators' Forum is made up of regulators who participate in the work of the NEA Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC).

The mission of the RWMC Regulators' Forum (RWMC RF) is to:

  • Facilitate multilateral communication and information exchange between RWMC regulators and promote a frank interchange in open dialogue among peers.
  • Define and address future regulatory challenges and issues in the area of waste management and disposal, including decommissioning and dismantling.
  • Promote discussion and exchange with other groups involved in regulatory affairs, both within and outside the NEA. The emphasis is on two-way exchanges to benefit from related experience.
  • Take the initiative within the RWMC in the area of regulation and licensing.

Regulator's Forum flyer (453 Kb)

Annual meetings and international workshops

Communication takes place through:

  • An annual plenary meeting prior to RWMC plenary sessions with in-depth discussions of emerging regulatory and policy issues and trends in radioactive waste management. During its annual meetings the RWMC RF often holds a topical session on a subject of particular interest to its members (topics addressed in previous topical sessions are listed below).
  • Workshops on a theme of particular interest to regulators to which participation from the RWMC as a whole and others is typically elicited. Workshops are held at different international locations. The NEA strategic plan provides a supporting framework for initiatives in the area of regulation.  

The regulatory control of radioactive waste management in NEA member countries

Information about the regulatory control of radioactive waste management in NEA member countries, with an emphasis on waste disposal and decommissioning, is presented in national reports at www.oecd-nea.org/rwm/rf/. Information is provided against a standard template designed to facilitate easy access to specific aspects and allow comparison between different countries. The national report includes information about national policies for radioactive waste management, institutional frameworks, legislative and regulatory frameworks, available guidance, classification and sources of waste, the status of waste management, current issues and related R&D programmes.

Annual RWMC RF topical sessions

RF 17 (2014) – Challenges to the Independence of the Safety Regulator
RF 16 (2013) – Evolution of International Recommendations and Discussion of their Influence on Regulatory Approaches and Doctrine
RF 15 (2012) – Regulatory Positions on Retrievability and its Demonstration
RF 14 (2011) – Dialogue with the Radio-Protection Profession
RF 13 (2010) – Optimisation of Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste
RF 12 (2009) – The R&D Needs of Regulatory Organizations in the Field of Waste Management and Approaches to Fulfill those Needs

Publications and reports

Reversibility of Decisions and Retrievability of Radioactive Waste: An Overview of Regulatory Positions and Issues (2015)
At one time disposal was often treated as if it were a relatively short-lived activity to be completed in the timespan of perhaps a single generation – the goal being to provide a facility that could safely contain radioactive waste without any further action or intervention by future generations. Increasingly, the implementation of a disposal project has come to be viewed as an incremental process, in a series of successive steps, likely taking several decades to complete. Besides the already well-established concept of protection of future generations, this changing vision incorporates the desire to preserve as much as practicable the ability of succeeding generations to exercise choice, in case they want to do so. Reversibility and retrievability have also brought up as topics and potential goals for during both pre- and post-closure of deep geological repositories in order to preserve choices. As part of this evolution, public stakeholders request to be better involved in decision making especially concerning monitoring and surveillance. Both activities are now under consideration after closure of the facility. The present document presents an overview of findings, positions, boundary conditions and issues based on the results of Reversibility and Retrievability (R&R) project of 2007-2011 and of the Reims conference of December 2010. Intention is to collect in one document reference information on the topic of R&R from a regulatory viewpoint.

Control, Oversight and Related Terms in the International Guidance on Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste – Review of Definitions and Use (2014)
This document presents the most complete analysis of the use of the words control, oversight, etc. as used in NEA, IAEA and ICRP literature connected to radioactive waste disposal. It reveals the many different ways the same word, "control", has been used in international guidance and ambiguities than can arise, especially so for the post-closure phase of the repository. The newly introduced ICRP terminology, namely the use of the words "oversight" and "built-in controls", represents a step forward in terminology.

The Evolving Role and Image of the Regulator in Radioactive Waste Management – Trends over Two Decades (2012)
Of all the institutional actors in the field of long-term radioactive waste management (RWM), it is perhaps the regulatory authorities that have restyled their roles most significantly. Modern societal demands on risk governance and widespread adoption of stepwise decision-making processes have influenced the image and role of regulators. Legal instruments both reflect and encourage a new set of behaviours and a new understanding on how regulators may best serve the public interest. This report, based on the work of the NEA Forum on Stakeholder Confidence, presents findings of relevance to regulators and examines their role within a robust and transparent RWM decision-making process. Detailed international observations are provided on the role of regulatory authorities; characteristics of the regulatory process; attributes that help achieve public confidence; and regulatory communication approaches.

Regulatory Research for Waste Disposal – Objectives and International Approaches (2011)
The present report outlines the potential merits of R&D work carried out by the regulator. It summarizes the results of a questionnaire that was circulated among the members of the Regulators' Forum of NEA's Radioactive Waste Management Committee in 2009, and it presents the conclusions of discussions within the RWMC-RF. The detailed answers to the questionnaire are also provided.

Optimisation of Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste - National and International Guidance and Questions for Further Discussion (2010)
As national geological disposal programmes progress towards implementation, the concept of "optimisation" and related requirements are receiving increased attention. Exchanges within NEA expert groups have shown that both regulators and implementers would benefit from a review of the relevant concepts and available guidance and experience. This report summarises and reviews the concepts relevant to the "optimisation" of geological disposal systems as they are outlined in national and international guidance. It also presents a set of observations and key questions. Overall, the report shows that, when addressing "optimisation", there is ample scope for clarifying concepts, facts and possibilities and for ensuring that regulatory guidance is sufficiently precise and implementable. The intention is that this report should serve as a basis for discussion within and beyond NEA committees and expert groups.

Towards Transparent, Proportionate and Deliverable Regulation for Geological Disposal – Workshop Proceedings, Tokyo, Japan, 20-22 January 2009
As part of its activities, the Regulators' Forum of the NEA Radioactive Waste Management Committee has been examining the regulatory criteria for the long-term performance of geological disposal. In this context, it organised a workshop entitled "Towards Transparent, Proportionate and Deliverable Regulation for Geological Disposal", which served to verify current status and needs. Participants included regulators, implementers, policy makers, R&D specialists and academics. Themes addressed included duties to future generations, timescales for regulation, stepwise decision making, roles of optimisation and best available techniques (BAT), multiple lines of reasoning, safety and performance indicators, recognition of uncertainties and the importance of stakeholder interactions. The workshop highlighted the significant amount of work accomplished over the past decade, but also identified important differences between national regulations even if these are not in contradiction with international guidance. Also highlighted was the importance of R&D carried out on behalf of the regulator. In addition to the contributed papers, these proceedings trace the numerous discussions that formed an integral part of the workshop. They constitute an important and unique documentary basis for researchers and radioactive waste management specialists.

Regulation and Guidance for the Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste – A Review of the Literature and Initiatives of the Past Decade (2010)
Since its inception, the RF has been examining the nature of the regulatory system and how the regulatory function is fulfilled as regards radioactive waste management. The RF has particular interest in safety criteria, in the regulatory aspects of waste retrievability, optimisation and long-term monitoring of geological repositories as well as emerging regulatory practices in the field of decommissioning. In the area of regulation and society, the RF recognises the importance of keeping abreast of the ethical issues associated with regulators'responsibilities to current and future generations as well as societal expectations regarding their role. In January 1997, the NEA workshop organised in Cordoba on "Regulating the Long-term Safety of Radioactive Waste Disposal" provided an important reference point for regulatory issues in the field of geological disposal. Twelve years on, many international and national developments have taken place and stock is being taken internationally of the progress to date. This study provides a review of the literature over this same period, including both national and international sources. The available documentation on the regulatory review of the disposal safety case is also covered. The study identifies the current main issues and helps place them in a historical perspective.

Considering Timescales in the Post-closure Safety of Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste (2009)
A key challenge in the development of safety cases for the deep geological disposal of radioactive waste is handling the long time frame over which the radioactive waste remains hazardous. The intrinsic hazard of the waste decreases with time, but some hazard remains for extremely long periods. Safety cases for geological disposal typically address performance and protection for thousands to millions of years into the future. Over such periods, a wide range of events and processes operating over many different timescales may impact on a repository and its environment. Uncertainties in the predictability of such factors increase with time, making it increasingly difficult to provide definite assurances of a repository's performance and the protection it may provide over longer timescales. Timescales, the level of protection and the assurance of safety are all linked.
Approaches to handling timescales for the geological disposal of radioactive waste are influenced by ethical principles, the evolution of the hazard over time, uncertainties in the evolution of the disposal system (and how these uncertainties themselves evolve) and the stability and predictability of the geological environment. Conversely, the approach to handling timescales can affect aspects of repository planning and implementation including regulatory requirements, siting decisions, repository design, the development and presentation of safety cases and the planning of pre- and post-closure institutional controls such as monitoring requirements. This is an area still under discussion among NEA member countries. This report reviews the current status and ongoing discussions of this issue.

Release of Radioactive Materials and Buildings from Regulatory Control – A Status Report (2008)  
The radiological concept of clearance can be defined as the release of radioactive materials or buildings from any further regulatory control applied for radiological protection purposes by the competent body. It is generally based on the assumption that, following clearance, any potential radiological exposure of the public will be trivial. Clearance is now a mature concept being used for the management of large amounts of radioactive materials (including metals, building rubble, cables and plastics) and disused buildings associated with a controlled nuclear activity. There are, however, differences in the ways in which clearance is dealt with in the regulatory frameworks of various countries and the ways in which clearance has been implemented in diverse decommissioning projects. This report provides up-to-date information on an array of national approaches to clearance. It should be of particular help to those planning the implementation of a clearance procedure, such as that for decommissioning a nuclear facility.

Regulating the Decommissioning of Nuclear Facilities – Relevant Issues and Emerging Practices (2008)
The removal of fuel from a permanently shutdown nuclear facility eliminates the major source of radiological hazard, a nuclear criticality. Combined with the cessation of operations at high temperatures and pressures, the risk to public health and to the environment is thereby very significantly reduced. The process of decommissioning does however necessitate processes involving both conventional and radiological hazards such as the cutting and dismantling of structures, plant and equipment and the use of explosive cutting techniques. Some radiological hazards remain because of the possibility of coming into contact with radioactively contaminated or activated material. This report considers how regulatory arrangements are being adapted to the continuously changing environment, and associated risk levels in a nuclear facility that is being decommissioned. It uses examples of current practices in several countries with large decommissioning programmes to illustrate emerging regulatory trends.

Regulating the Long-term Safety of Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste: Practical Issues and Challenges– Workshop Proceedings, Paris, France, 28-30 November 2006
Regulating the long-term safety of geological disposal of radioactive waste is a key part of making progress on the radioactive waste management issue. A survey of member countries has shown that differences exist both in the protection criteria being applied and in the methods for demonstrating compliance, reflecting historical and cultural differences between countries which in turn result in a diversity of decision-making approaches and frameworks. At the same time, however, these differences in criteria are unlikely to result in significant differences in long-term protection, as all the standards being proposed are well below levels at which actual effects of radiological exposure can be observed and a range of complementary requirements is foreseen. In order to enable experts from a wide range of backgrounds to debate the various aspects of these findings, the NEA organised an international workshop in November 2006 in Paris, France. Discussions focused on diversity in regulatory processes; the basis and tools for assuring long-term protection; ethical responsibilities of one generation to later generations and how these can be discharged; and adapting regulatory processes to the long time frames involved in implementing geological disposal. These proceedings include a summary of the viewpoints expressed as well as the 22 papers presented at the workshop.

Regulating the Long-term Safety of Geological Disposal – Towards a Common Understanding of the Main Objectives and Bases of Safety Criteria (2007)
Regulating the long-term safety of geological disposal of radioactive waste poses special challenges due to the very long timescales involved. This report has been prepared to help foster a common understanding of the fundamental safety objectives of deep geological repositories and the applicable criteria. It provides important guidance for the national programmes that are developing or refining regulations. A common understanding may also contribute to clearer communication and public understanding of regulatory criteria.

Releasing the Sites of Nuclear Installations – A Status Report (2006)
Releasing the site of a nuclear installation from radiological control is usually one of the last steps of decommissioning. To date, site release has been practised in a limited number of cases only as most decommissioning projects have not yet advanced to a state where the release of the site is imminent or because the site will continue to be used for nuclear activities. Therefore, for a number of decommissioning projects where planning for site release will soon start, this status report provides useful considerations based on NEA member country experience and expert advice. In addition to describing the basic considerations which must be taken into account when deciding on the release of a site, the status report provides guidance on establishing release criteria. The report also addresses site release implementation, measurement techniques and underground contamination. It will be of particular interest to regulators, implementers, R&D experts and policy makers dealing with decommissioning and dismantling issues.

The Regulatory Function and Radioactive Waste Management – International Overview (2005)
This overview presents an easily accessible synopsis of the regulatory control of radioactive waste management in 15 NEA member countries. It covers the management of radioactive waste from all types of nuclear installations, such as nuclear power plants, research reactors and nuclear fuel cycle facilities. It also addresses medical, research and industrial sources as well as defence-related sources where relevant. The overview should be of interest to a wide audience of both specialists and non-specialists.

Stepwise Approach to Decision Making for Long-term Radioactive Waste Management: Experience, Issues and Guiding Principles (2004)
The decision-making process for developing and implementing long-term radioactive waste management (RWM) solutions extends over decades and involves both a multitude of actors/stakeholders and stages. In order to be sustainable and successful, a great deal of built-in flexibility is needed in designing and carrying out such processes. Concepts such as "stepwise decision making" and "adaptive staging" hold out a means by which the public, and especially the local public, can be meaningfully involved in the review and planning of radioactive waste management solutions. This review of stepwise decision making for long-term RWM pinpoints its current status, highlights its societal dimension and identifies implementation issues from both the point of view of social research and RWM practitioners. There is convergence between these two perspectives, and general guiding principles and action goals are proposed as a basis for further discussion and development of the stepwise decision-making concept.

The Regulatory Control of Radioactive Waste Management – Overview of 15 NEA Member Countries (2004)
Regulators are major stakeholders in the decision-making process for radioactive waste management. The NEA Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC) has recognised the value of exchanging and comparing information about national regulatory practices and having an informal, international network for discussing issues of common concern. The RWMC Regulators' Forum provides considerable opportunity for such activities. This report presents the initial results of the Forum's work. Information is given for 15 NEA member countries in a format that allows easy accessibility to specific aspects and comparison between different countries. It includes an array of facts about national policies for radioactive waste management, institutional frameworks, legislative and regulatory frameworks, available guidance, classification and sources of waste and the status of waste management. It also provides an overview of current issues being addressed and related R&D programmes.

Removal of Regulatory Controls for Materials and Sites – National Regulatory Positions

The Regulator's Evolving Role and Image in Radioactive Waste Management – Lessons Learnt within the NEA Forum on Stakeholder Confidence (2003)
Of all the institutional actors in the field of long-term radioactive waste management (RWM), it is perhaps the regulatory authorities that have restyled their roles most significantly. Modern societal demands on risk governance and widespread adoption of stepwise deicison-making processes have influenced the image and role of regulators. Legal instruments both reflect and encourage a new set of behaviours and a new understanding on how regulators may best serve the public interest. This report, based on the work of the NEA Forum on Stakeholder Confidence, presents findings of relevance to regulators and examines their role within a robust and transparent RWM decision-making process. Detailed international observations are provided on the role of regulatory authorities; characteristics of the regulatory process; attributes that help achieve public confidence; and regulatory communication approaches.

Future Human Actions at Disposal Sites (1995)
A Report of the NEA Working Group on Assessment of Future Human Actions at Radioactive Waste Disposal Sites

International workshops

Through its workshops, the Regulator's Forum provides an opportunity for effective interaction and dialogue among regulators, implementers, R&D specialists, policy makers and social scientists to the benefit of all.

Preparing for Construction and Operation of Geological Repositories – Challenges to the Regulator and the Implementer: Main Findings of a Joint RF/IGSC workshop (2012)
A key challenge for some national radioactive waste management programmes and an important learning opportunity for many others will be the licensing of the construction and operation of the first deep geological repositories for high level waste and spent fuel over the next decade. This document describes the main findings of the international workshop on this topic organised jointly by the Regulators' Forum (RF) and the Integration Group for the Safety Case (IGSC) of the NEA/RWMC. The workshop proceedings were published under document NEA/RWM/R(2013)6.

Towards Transparent, Proportionate and Deliverable Regulation for Geological Disposal – Workshop Proceedings, Tokyo, Japan, 20-22 January 2009
As part of its activities, the Regulators' Forum of the NEA Radioactive Waste Management Committee has been examining the regulatory criteria for the long-term performance of geological disposal. In this context, it organised a workshop entitled "Towards Transparent, Proportionate and Deliverable Regulation for Geological Disposal", which served to verify current status and needs. Participants included regulators, implementers, policy makers, R&D specialists and academics. Themes addressed included duties to future generations, timescales for regulation, stepwise decision making, roles of optimisation and best available techniques (BAT), multiple lines of reasoning, safety and performance indicators, recognition of uncertainties and the importance of stakeholder interactions. The workshop highlighted the significant amount of work accomplished over the past decade, but also identified important differences between national regulations even if these are not in contradiction with international guidance. Also highlighted was the importance of R&D carried out on behalf of the regulator. In addition to the contributed papers, these proceedings trace the numerous discussions that formed an integral part of the workshop. They constitute an important and unique documentary basis for researchers and radioactive waste management specialists.

Regulating the Long-term Safety of Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste: Practical Issues and Challenges – Workshop Proceedings, Paris, France, 28-30 November 2006
Regulating the long-term safety of geological disposal of radioactive waste is a key part of making progress on the radioactive waste management issue. A survey of member countries has shown that differences exist both in the protection criteria being applied and in the methods for demonstrating compliance, reflecting historical and cultural differences between countries which in turn result in a diversity of decision-making approaches and frameworks. At the same time, however, these differences in criteria are unlikely to result in significant differences in long-term protection, as all the standards being proposed are well below levels at which actual effects of radiological exposure can be observed and a range of complementary requirements is foreseen. In order to enable experts from a wide range of backgrounds to debate the various aspects of these findings, the NEA organised an international workshop in November 2006 in Paris, France. Discussions focused on diversity in regulatory processes; the basis and tools for assuring long-term protection; ethical responsibilities of one generation to later generations and how these can be discharged; and adapting regulatory processes to the long time frames involved in implementing geological disposal. These proceedings include a summary of the viewpoints expressed as well as the 22 papers presented at the workshop.

Related links

National reports at www.oecd-nea.org/rwm/rf/

Radioactive Waste Management Committee

Regulatory Infrastructure in the Field of Disposal in NEA Member Countries
This document summarises the relevant regulatory information as of December 2009. The Regulatory Function and Radioactive Waste Management: International Overview (NEA No. 6041, Paris, 2005) is the report for which this information was first collected and commented upon. The publication remains valid for the considerations it provides.

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Last reviewed: 9 April 2014