IAEA sees continued German commitment to waste management

21 November 2022

Germany has demonstrated commitment to the continued development of its national radioactive waste management programme since a previous review in 2019, a follow-up International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission has concluded.

How Germany's planned Konrad low and intermediate-level waste repository site could appear (Image: BGE)

The IAEA sent an Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (Artemis) mission to Germany in 2019 at the request of the German 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 second mission - the first IAEA follow-up to an Artemis mission - was carried out from 7 to 12 November to review the implementation of the findings identified during the initial mission in 2019. The team comprised seven experts from Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, the UK and two IAEA staff members.

The scope of the Artemis follow-up mission covered all aspects and topics related to the development and implementation of the radioactive waste management programme. The mission focused on the national policy and strategy for the management of radioactive waste, application of selection criteria in the identification of a site for a disposal facility for high-level radioactive waste, and cost assessment for the programme. It also reviewed the national plan and cost estimation for the retrieval of waste from the Asse II former salt mine.

The team noted that the majority of the initial recommendations and suggestions had been addressed and advised Germany to apply a consistent approach across future activities related to cost assessment of the radioactive waste management programme.

"Germany, as the first country to call for a follow-up Artemis mission, has shown its dedication to meet the findings from 2019 and strong commitment to transparency of communications, in the interest of improving standards of safety in implementing its national programme for radioactive waste management," said mission team leader Patrice François of France's Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety.

Of the three recommendations and 12 suggestions identified in the initial mission, two recommendations and two suggestions require further development, the team said. These include: updating the cost assessment for the national waste management programme in the cost report, based on a consistent approach across all activities, including waste retrieval from Asse II mine; analysing risk and uncertainty when updating the cost assessment for all public sector components of the radioactive waste and used fuel management programme; assessing whether the geosphere requirements for non-heat generating waste are different from those for high-level waste and, if they are, taking them into account in the application of disposal facility siting criteria; and making greater use of the radioactive waste inventory to monitor changes in the inventory over time and demonstrate waste minimisation.

"We are happy that we were able to demonstrate that we made progress, that most of the 2019 findings could be closed and that no new ones were identified," said Gerrit Niehaus, Director General for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Safety at Germany's Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection. "The findings that remain open will be used to guide us on our way to further improve the safe management of radioactive waste in Germany, our national programme and our communication."

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

Researched and written by World Nuclear News