IAEA assesses Slovakia's radwaste programme

02 March 2023

The Slovak Republic is committed to the safe and effective management of radioactive waste and used fuel, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts has concluded. The team commended Slovakia for its decommissioning activities while noting opportunities to enhance preparations for geological disposal.

The Artemis team (Image: IAEA)

The IAEA sent an Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (Artemis) mission to Slovakia at the request of the country's government.

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.

A team - comprising six experts from Germany, Lithuania, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK, as well as two IAEA staff members - completed a ten-day mission to Slovakia on 22 February. An observer from the European Commission also attended the mission. The mission was hosted by the Slovak National Nuclear Fund.

The Artemis team considered the findings from a September 2022 Integrated Regulatory Review Service mission that assessed the country's overall nuclear regulatory framework. Together, the two missions comprehensively evaluate Slovakia's legal and governmental framework, regulatory infrastructure and arrangements for nuclear safety, radiation protection, transport safety, decommissioning, as well as radioactive waste and used fuel management.

The mission found that Slovakia has a strong commitment to ensuring the safe implementation of radioactive waste and used fuel management activities in the country. The team commended Slovakia on the work to ensure that radioactive wastes are managed in a timely manner and on the country's significant efforts to minimise the waste volumes through effective segregation and conditioning.

"Slovakia has established a good basis for the safe and responsible management of radioactive waste and spent fuel as well as for decommissioning,” said Artemis team leader Thiagan Pather from South Africa's National Nuclear Regulator.

The team also identified recommendations and suggestions to maintain and further improve the safe and responsible management of radioactive waste in Slovakia. The recommendations and suggestions included: the government should decide on undertaking further work on geological disposal; the government should proactively involve interested parties, including the public, in selecting the location of the geological disposal facility; and the National Nuclear Fund should establish procedures for the timely and regular updating of the national programme for radioactive waste and used fuel management.

"We are pleased that there has been a good practice identified as a potential driver for further improvements in area of decommissioning," said Ladislav Éhn, chairman of the Board of Governors of the National Nuclear Fund. "Moreover, the fruitful discussions with the experts and counterparts during the whole mission represent significant contribution to the high level of the mission's outputs"

The final mission report will be provided to the Government in two months.

Radioactive waste and used fuel in Slovakia originate primarily from four reactors in nuclear power plants - two at Mochovce and two at Jaslovské Bohunice - that together generate more than half of the country's electricity. Slovakia has also started commissioning of a third reactor unit at Mochovce. The use of radiation sources in agriculture, industry, medicine and research applications generates limited quantities of radioactive waste.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News