A project of the OECD/NEA Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC), 2011-2014
Disposal in engineered facilities built in stable, deep geological formations is the reference means for permanently isolating long-lived radioactive waste from the biosphere. This management method is designed to be intrinsically safe and final, wherein final disposal does not depend on human presence and intervention in order to fulfil its safety goal. However, there is no intention to forgo, at any time, knowledge and awareness either of the repository or of the waste that it contains.
As repository development reaches industrial maturity in several countries, programmes examine means for indirect oversight once the repository is closed, including: monitoring, applying safeguards according to international agreements, maintaining records, and ultimately maintaining memory. Institutional arrangements are integral to these provisions, as continuity of records, knowledge and memory (RK&M) will require, in the first place, identifying a chain of responsibilities. The cultural dimension of preserving RK&M is an important subject. At the same time, provisions that are less vulnerable to changes in socio-economic conditions and may be less reliant on institutional presence should be studied.
Overall, long-term preservation of RK&M is a multidisciplinary work area in which much learning is expected over the coming years. Progress has been made in individual countries, but there is a need to internationalise the thinking, compare approaches, test potential solutions and share decisions. This is the task of the RWMC's new "RK&M" programme (2011-2014). A major outcome will be a menu-driven document that will allow people to identify the elements of a strategic action plan for RK&M preservation. The proceedings of the October 2011 RK&M workshop are now available on line (link below). This workshop grouped representatives of waste management institutions and social scientists including philosophers, historians and archaeologists. Their work brought into focus the three related areas of: archiving, markers and monuments, and heritage – keeping a human, cultural 'story' alive behind waste management facilities.
Last reviewed: 17 November 2012