IAEA assesses waste management in France and Spain

09 February 2018

France has demonstrated a comprehensive commitment to safety with a responsible approach to the management of used nuclear fuel and radioactive waste, a mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has concluded. Preparations are under way for missions to Spain later this year.

At the request of the French government, the IAEA has conducted an integrated review service for radioactive waste and used fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programmes, referred to as Artemis. Artemis missions provide independent expert opinion and advice, drawn from an international team of specialists convened by the IAEA. Reviews are based on the IAEA safety standards and technical guidance, as well as international good practices.

The mission to France aimed to help the country meet European Union obligations that require an independent peer review of national programmes for the safe and responsible management of used fuel and radioactive waste. These assessments must be carried out at least every ten years. It is the second Artemis carried out to meet EU obligations, following a mission to Poland last October.

The 11-day mission concluded on 24 January and comprised 13 experts from Belgium, Canada, Cuba, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK, as well as three IAEA staff members. The mission was hosted by the Directorate General of Energy and Climate (DGEC) with the participation of officials from several organisations, including the French National Radioactive Waste Agency (Andra) and the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN).

The Artemis team said France is "well positioned to continue meeting high standards of safety". The mission noted a number of good practices to be shared with the global waste management community. These included a clear government commitment to the national strategy and programme for waste management, including safe disposal. France, the team found, has developed a transparent national waste inventory and has made deliberate efforts towards maintaining a high level of professional, competent staff.

The mission also made suggestions for France to further enhance its waste management programme. It suggests France facilitates implementation of the requirement for decommissioning to take place in the shortest time possible and also to optimise management of very low level waste. The team suggests the country considers mechanisms to address disposal liabilities for small waste producers.

ASN said the team's suggestions will be taken into account in the preparation of the next National Radioactive Material and Waste Management Plan, which will be subject to in-depth consultation with the stakeholders and the public.

Artemis team leader Peter De Preter said: "On the basis of the review, the team concluded that France's waste management programme is comprehensive and coherent in fostering safety. Our review highlights France's commitment to safety." De Preter is a senior advisor at Ondra/Niras, the Belgian agency for the management of radioactive waste.

Aurelien Louis, head of DGEC's nuclear industry department, said the peer review represented "an important element in our efforts to ensure the safety of the French waste management programme, establish greater public confidence and respond to the EU waste directive". Louis added: "The outcome of the mission was very positive while also providing us with suggestions that will be a good basis for future enhancements."

Missions to Spain

On 25-26 January, Spain's Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) hosted a preparatory meeting for IAEA to carry out combined Artemis and Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) missions in October.

IRRS missions are designed to strengthen the effectiveness of the national radiation safety regulatory infrastructure, while recognising the responsibility of each member state to ensure nuclear and radiation safety. The missions compare regulatory technical and policy issues with IAEA safety standards and, where appropriate, good practices elsewhere. The regulatory review process also draws directly upon the wide-ranging international experience and expertise of the regulatory review team members.

At the meeting, representatives from the IAEA, the Ministry of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and decommissioning firm Enresa discussed what their respective roles will be during both missions.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News