The Netherlands has established an effective programme for managing its used fuel and radioactive waste for its current needs, according to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste & Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning & Remediation (ARTEMIS) mission. The Government of the Netherlands, the Authority for Nuclear Safety & Radiation Protection (ANVS) and the Central Organisation of Radioactive Waste (COVRA) have demonstrated a commitment to safety, innovation and openness, the review team concluded.

The ten-day mission was requested by the Ministry of Infrastructure & Water Management to support the Netherlands’ obligations under a European Union directive for independent reviews of national frameworks and programmes for managing radioactive waste and used fuel. The ARTEMIS review team comprised six experts from Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany and Romania, as well as three IAEA staff members and one observer from the European Commission.

The team considered findings from a June 2023 Integrated Regulatory Review Service, which assessed the Netherlands overall nuclear regulatory framework. Together, the two reviews comprehensively evaluated the legal and governmental framework and regulatory infrastructure for nuclear safety and waste management.

The Netherlands’ policy on radioactive waste is connected to the policy on radiation protection, which protects individuals, society and the environment against the risks of exposure to ionising radiation. The Netherlands has one central storage facility for radioactive waste (COVRA), one nuclear power reactor in operation, one nuclear power plant in safe shutdown, two research reactors and one enrichment plant. By 2040, two new nuclear power plants, a research reactor and an installation for medical isotope production are expected to start operation.

Used fuel from the Netherlands’ Borssele NPP is reprocessed in France, and the radioactive waste generated during this process is returned to the Netherlands for storage at COVRA. Used fuel from the research reactors is directly stored at COVRA.

“The Netherlands established a waste management system that provides for the safe management of radioactive waste based on the current activities,” said Janez Perko, ARTEMIS Team Leader and Senior Researcher at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK CEN.

The ARTEMIS team noted that the Netherlands is committed to continuous improvement for the safe management of radioactive waste and used fuel. The team also made a number of recommendations, including:

The Government should enhance the national policy and strategy related to disposal.ANVS should enhance the regulatory framework concerning waste characterisation.COVRA should proceed from the existing waste specifications to waste acceptance criteria for the management of radioactive waste.

"The mission team has provided us with useful and constructive recommendations that will really help us in the Netherlands to further improve our radioactive waste management policy,” said Vivianne Heijnen, State Secretary for Infrastructure & Water Management, responsible for nuclear safety and radiation protection in the Dutch government. “We are currently updating our National Programme on Radioactive Waste, and this process will benefit from incorporating the ARTEMIS review mission’s suggestions. In the updated Programme, we will also launch a roadmap that will be a good basis to further implement the suggestions from the ARTEMIS review mission, for example, about final disposal and dismantling.”

Hildegarde Vandenhove, IAEA Director of the Division of Radiation, Transport & Waste Safety expressed confidence that recommended improvements related to the safe management of radioactive waste and used fuel, such as an enhanced policy and strategy, will be considered and implemented. The final report from the review will be provided to the Government of the Netherlands in two months.

Image: The existing high radioactive waste treatment and storage building (Habog) at Covra in the Netherlands (courtesy of COVRA)

Date: Thursday, 07 December 2023
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