The IAEA has, over a considerable period of time, organised various international meetings on the safety of radioactive disposal safety and coordinated a series of multi-year projects on near surface disposal (including NSARS, ISAM, ASAM, PRISM and PRISMA). The PRISMA project completed in 2016. These activities have provided a valuable and productive international forum for discussions, exchange of experiences, development of methodologies and mutual learning on safety assessments, the development of safety cases and the practical use of such safety cases in developing, operating and taking strategic decisions concerning near surface disposal facilities.
The IAEA recognises the need for such an international forum remains and continues to grow, as an increasing number of countries face the challenges of radioactive waste disposal in general, and the safety of near surface disposal of radioactive waste in particular. To this end, the IAEA has launched a new forum in this area, and hosted the first technical meeting in Vienna during 30 October to 3 November 2017. The objectives foreseen for the new forum are as follows:
- To provide an enduring forum that will assist Member States to ensure the safety of near surface disposal.
- To help Member States to improve safety by:
- developing guidance, methods and tools as appropriate;
- enabling the exchange of information on good practices (e.g. on safety cases, safety assessment, technologies); and
- providing informal review of facilities and safety cases by peers.
- To facilitate education and training of staff.
The first technical meeting was attended by representatives from 32 different Member States, with differing requirements and levels of experience in the implementation of near surface disposal. Sarah Watson from Quintessa contributed by acting as a leader for one of the working groups that were convened during the meeting. The meeting provided an opportunity for discussion amongst IAEA Member States on the safe development of near surface disposal facilities. It achieved its objectives to identify common topics of interest that the forum could pursue over the next three years (2018-2021) and to develop initial programmes of work to address the topics. These initial ideas are now being further developed by the IAEA, who will issue formal work scopes in due course.
With thanks to the IAEA for permission to publish this article.