Final disposal

International Principles of Nuclear Waste Management

With a directive approved in 2011 (2011/70/EURATOM), the Council of the European Union made a decision concerning the principles that member states shall comply with in regard to nuclear waste management. The basic principle is that each individual member state shall carry the responsibility for the safe implementation of nuclear waste management. Furthermore, each member state shall see to the final disposal of nuclear waste generated in its area unless it has made other separate arrangements with another state that has committed to safety targets meeting or exceeding the obligations of the EU directive. The EU cannot oblige a member state to receive nuclear waste generated in another member state. Moreover, in Finland, as in certain other EU member states, the import of nuclear waste is prohibited.

The principles and requirements presented in the EU spent fuel and radioactive waste management directive largely correspond to the contents of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management adopted under the guidance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1997. Most countries utilising nuclear energy are committed to the Joint Convention.  The Joint Convention is based on the general Safety Fundamentals for the implementation of nuclear waste management defined earlier by IAEA. These Fundamentals emphasise the responsibility of the producer of nuclear waste for implementing its nuclear waste management in a manner that allows humans and living nature to remain unharmed by the waste, in the present as well as in the future. The Joint Convention also requires that the burden of the implementation of nuclear waste management not be unduly imposed on future generations.

The implementation of the Joint Convention is monitored regularly through reviews organised every three years. For the reviews, each signatory state of the Convention prepares a fairly extensive report on the progress of the implementation of nuclear waste management and future plans in its area. The reviews are carried out by experts appointed by other signatory states. An assessment of the success of implementation of the Convention in each state is prepared on the basis of the review. The assessment also serves to point out the deficiencies that each signatory state must correct before the subsequent monitoring meeting.

In addition to defining the basic principles, IAEA has prepared detailed guidelines and recommendations for the implementation of nuclear waste management.  The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), the nuclear energy organisation of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member states, has actively participated in the preparation of these regulations. It has also issued guidelines and statements of its own concerning the procedures to be followed in nuclear waste management.  Furthermore, it has sought to promote international cooperation in research and development by organising various workshops, seminars and conferences on topical issues. The NEA has also prepared intermittent reviews and statements on the state of nuclear waste management around the world.

During recent years, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) has issued recommendations of its own concerning nuclear waste management safety requirements. In most cases, these recommendations have subsequently been incorporated into national regulations.

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