Message from NEA Director-General Magwood
The crisis we face today is unlike any we have ever faced in the era of globalisation and interconnectiveness. All countries feel the impact, all economies are affected, all populations are under threat. The event is ongoing and, by most accounts, is likely to be with us for months.
In the short term, an important pillar of any country’s pandemic response strategy will be a reliable electricity supply. Many parts of the infrastructure essential to modern life – food supply, transportation and public health services cannot function without reliable electricity. The principal threat to the operation of any electricity generating facility during a pandemic will be the direct and indirect effects on essential personnel for extended periods.
The nuclear sector, like all other areas of our modern society, is doing its part to reduce the number of infections. The world’s nuclear power plants are operating safely and effectively and are contributing to the reliable grids needed to power the untold millions who are teleworking, the families sheltering at home, and essential medical facilities operating far beyond their intended capacity. But while the energy flows, the sector itself is impacted by the pandemic and must quickly adapt to ever‑changing, unprecedented, and uncertain circumstances.
It is the norm in the nuclear sector to change processes and practices only after deliberate analyses, with numerous viewpoints taken into account; but today's crisis calls upon all for quick responses. Decisions must be made rapidly in situations that have no complete parallel. Regulators must adjust their plans for inspections. Operators will defer outages and modifications to their plants. Technologies that allow people to do their jobs away from normal workplaces must be applied in new and novel ways. In each country, choices made are made in the context of the level of threat to the health and safety of the workforce and the general population. Still, in each country, nuclear safety will remain the priority of all.
With this backdrop, the NEA must support our members as they adjust to the environment created by the COVID-19 crisis. We are establishing a means for rapid exchange of ideas and best practices, information about what is working well and what is not. While we hope that the threat from this pandemic will soon lessen, many experts anticipate a considerable risk to public health through into May and June, with potential of a second round of infections in September and October. The NEA's ongoing work will serve both immediate necessities and prepare us for the longer term.
In the meantime, the pandemic has been a test of the NEA's own safety culture. I am pleased to report that the same safety culture we highlight in our publications on nuclear operations, putting health and safety first, has been applied to the NEA itself. The entire Agency has been teleworking since 12 March, with little disruption to its work. While important events have been postponed, the work of our committees has continued, software packages from the NEA Data Bank continue to be issued, and we will shortly host our first web event since the crisis—on the crisis itself.
This success is due to the dedication of the Agency's staff to the work we pursue on behalf of our member countries; to the commitment of our members to the important matters that bring them together from all over the world; and to the confidence of all who comprise the nuclear technology sector that whatever challenges we face at the moment, a brighter future always lay ahead.
NEA Expert Group on the Dose Limit for the Lens of the Eye launches survey
The recently‑established NEA Expert Group on the Dose limit for the Lens of the Eye (EGDLE) aims to facilitate an exchange of experiences among member countries in the practical implementation of the dose limits to the lens of the eye recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) for occupational exposures. The status of the implementation of ICRP recommendations differs from one country to another. For example, some countries have already adopted the new limit by implementing the ICRP recommendation with no changes, while some countries have not, and some others plan to adopt new dose limits in a progressive manner by gradually moving to lower dose limits. However, despite these differences, regulators and stakeholders worldwide could benefit from exchanging with other countries that already implemented the ICRP recommendations to ensure that additional efforts are strategic and optimised. To this end, the EGDLE launched a survey in March 2020 to collect information and views from nuclear and non‑nuclear regulatory bodies, technical support organisations, and any other organisations involved in regulation. The results of this survey will be analysed and shared in a forthcoming report.
Psychosocial aspects of radiological and nuclear emergencies
The NEA Expert Group on Non‑radiological Public Health Aspects of Radiation Emergency Planning and Response (EGNR) met remotely on 20 March 2020. The group discussed the latest draft of the forthcoming World Health Organisation (WHO) report "Mental health and psychosocial Support (MHPSS) in radiological and nuclear emergencies". The EGNR is now preparing an operational extension of the WHO framework by developing practical solutions, approaches and tools to mitigate mental health and psychosocial impacts. The group is also working on the planning of the workshop "Toward a better integration of Non‑Radiological Public Health Aspects of Protection Strategies during Radiation Emergency Planning, Response and Recovery", which will be co‑organised with the WHO and the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) in Germany in October 2020. The workshop will include a topical session dedicated to a comparative analysis of the Covid‑19 emergency and radiation emergencies, with a special focus on mental health and psychosocial impacts.
New NEA Expert Group on Comparison and Understanding of Dose Prognosis (EGDP) kicks off
The new NEA Expert Group on Comparison and Understanding of Dose Prognosis (EGDP) held its kick‑off meeting remotely on 24 March 2020. The EGDP aims to facilitate collaboration among member countries in improving cross‑border co‑ordination through a common understanding of the outputs of dose projection codes, which influence the decisions on protective actions. The group's working methodology is based on an exercise, in which member countries will use the same agreed‑upon source term for a given accident site, run their own dose prognosis code, and compare their results. The kick‑off meeting participants reviewed the group's programme of work, exchanged information on the dose prognosis codes used in member countries, and discussed the development of the EGDP exercise programme.
NEA International Radiological Protection School (IRPS)
The next session of the NEA International Radiological Protection School (IRPS) will take place from 17 to 21 August 2020 at Stockholm University in Sweden. This five‑day training provides mid‑career radiological protection (RP) experts with an understanding of the "spirit" of the RP system. International experts will present the nuances, history and between‑the‑lines meanings of international guidance and working experience, that will allow tomorrow's radiological protection leaders to appropriately apply the RP system to address current and future radiological circumstances. For more information on the course and to apply, see oe.cd/nea-irps.
Radioactive waste management
Preservation of Records, Knowledge and Memory (RK&M) Across Generations: Final Report of the RK&M Initiative
Radioactive waste repositories are designed to isolate waste from the living environment without human intervention over extended periods of time. Nevertheless, the intention is not to abandon the repositories, but to provide the oversight that is necessary to ensure that they are not forgotten by society. In response to this challenge, the NEA launched the international initiative "Preservation of Records, Knowledge and Memory (RK&M) Across Generations" in 2011. As a result, an in‑depth understanding of this issue was developed, as well as a specific methodology to address it. This report serves as a general guide to the RK&M preservation topic. It presents a historical review, addresses ethical considerations, analyses the fundamentals of RK&M preservation, outlines various mechanisms and indicates how to develop these mechanisms into a systemic RK&M preservation strategy. It also aims to inspire and assist a variety of actors so that they can discuss and develop national and repository‑specific RK&M preservation strategies. Download the report here.
Deep geological disposal in NEA member countries
The guest editorial in the latest edition of NEA News by Jean‑Paul Minon, former Director General of the Belgian National Agency for Radioactive Waste and Enriched Fissile Material (ONDRAF/NIRAS), addresses the fundamental questions of geological disposal of radioactive waste. The long‑term management of radioactive waste is, as Minon argues, an issue with multiple dimensions: technical, scientific – but also societal and financial. The NEA strives to address all of these questions in its ongoing work. Read the editorial here.
Advancing Geological Repositories from Concept to Operation
The Sixth International Conference on Geological Repositories (ICGR 2020) will take place on 8‑11 November 2020 in Helsinki, Finland. Building upon the previous conferences held in Denver (1999), Stockholm (2003), Berne (2007), Toronto (2012) and Paris (2016), ICGR 2020 will focus on "Advancing Geological Repositories from Concept to Operation" and demonstrate the significant progress of geological repositories in the last two decades. The event will bring together high level decision makers from responsible government ministries, regulatory bodies, waste management organisations, research institutes, and local stakeholders, as well as young professionals and students, to review current perspectives of geological repository development. It will show the progress made in the last two decades towards geologic disposal of radioactive waste by facilitating an exchange of information and experience. Participants will discuss various best practices in demonstrating technical reliability and share approaches in building human capacity, as well as in developing stakeholder confidence in the safety construction and operation of long term geological repositories. For more information and to register, please visit www.icgr2020.org.
Nuclear development and economics
Uranium royalties and taxation – Reflecting social and economic benefits in decision making
Uranium mining has the potential to generate significant social and economic benefits. These can be seen directly through increased employment, training, salaries and wages, and government revenues (royalties and taxes). An article in the latest issue of NEA News presents a case study comparing two leading uranium jurisdictions – Saskatchewan, Canada and the Northern Territory, Australia – to provide specific information on different royalty systems, as well as methodologies and results. Read the article here.
Contracting Parties to the Paris Convention meet remotely
The Contracting Parties to the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy met remotely on 20 March 2020 to discuss the interpretation and implementation of this Convention and the Brussels Convention Supplementary to the Paris Convention.
The following documents listed below have been posted online:
- A bilingual version of the Unofficial consolidated text of the Paris Convention as amended by the 2004 Protocol in English and French;
- A bilingual version of the Unofficial consolidated text of the Brussels Supplementary Convention as amended by the 2004 Protocol in English and French;
- An update of the Exposé des motifs (explanatory text) of the revised Paris convention in English and in French; and
- The Exposé des motifs (explanatory text) of the revised Brussels Supplementary Convention in English and in French (posted for the first time).
Also now available is the NEA Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy Recommendation concerning the definition of "Radioisotopes Which Have Reached the Final Stage of Fabrication" in the Paris Convention. The purpose of this recommendation is to strengthen the common understanding with regard to the definition of the term "final stage of fabrication" in Article 1(a)(iv) of the Paris Convention, and with regard to the temporal effect of the exclusion of radioisotopes which have reached the final stage of fabrication. The principle is that once the radioisotopes have reached the final stage of fabrication and have left the nuclear installation where they reached that stage (i.e. the "nuclear installation of origin"), they will no longer be covered by the Paris Convention. The English and French versions of this document are available here.
Application deadline extended to 17 April for the International School of Nuclear Law
The International School of Nuclear Law (ISNL) is a two‑week course designed to provide participants with a comprehensive understanding of the various legal issues relating to the safe, efficient and secure use of nuclear energy. The 2020 session of the ISNL is still expected to take place from 24 August to 4 September in Montpellier, France. Applications will be accepted through 17 April 2020. Any updates about this year's programme will be posted online and e‑mailed to all applicants. For more information on the course and to apply, see oe.cd/ISNL.
Nuclear science and data
NEA Data Bank organises PHITS workshop in co‑operation with the Argentine National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA)
NEA (TDB) Project course: Thermodynamic data collection and assessment
Following the publication of the State‑of‑the‑Art Report on the progress of Nuclear Fuel Cycle Chemistry in 2018 and some initial development work undertaken as part of the European Seventh Framework Programme project SACSESS (Safety of Actinide Separation Processes), a new database project has been initiated by the NEA Expert Group on Fuel Recycling Chemistry (EGFRC): The International Database on Extractant Ligands (IDEaL). The aim of this project is to develop and populate a database of ligands that can eventually become a valuable source of basic data accessible to the wider actinide separations community. The International Database on Extractant Ligands (IDEaL) has recently undergone its first phase of development. EGFRC members are currently beta testing the newly‑developed interface and continue reviewing data.
Chemical Thermodynamics Series Volume 13b
The NEA Chemical Thermodynamics Series comprises review reports dealing with data selection for particular elements and state-of-the-art reports focusing on the application of chemical thermodynamics to particular systems of interest to the radioactive waste management community. Volume 13b of this series is the second part of a critical review of the thermodynamic properties of iron, its solid compounds and aqueous complexes. Part 1, Volume 13a, contained assessments of data for the metal, simple ions, aqueous hydroxido, chlorido, sulfido, sulfato and carbonato complexes, and for solid oxides and hydroxides, halides, sulfates, carbonates and simple silicates – data judged to be of key interest for radioactive waste management calculations. This second part of the review provides assessments of data for sulfide solids, and solid and solution species with nitrate, phosphate and arsenate; some aqueous species not considered in Part 1; and some aspects of solid solution formation in iron‑oxide and iron‑sulfide systems. Download the report at oe.cd/nea-tdb-13b
NEA (TDB) Project course: Thermodynamic data collection and assessment
The 4th edition of the annual NEA Thermochemical Database (TDB) Project course on thermodynamic data collection and assessment will take place on 12‑13 November 2020 in Paris, France. This two‑day course is designed to familiarise scientists with current NEA TDB activities and standards, provide an overview of data collection and analysis techniques, and work through some real system examples to demonstrate the critical evaluation and data assessment process. Find out more and apply at oe.cd/nea-tdb-2020.