Parties to the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management - known as the Joint Convention - have submitted national reports detailing the steps they are taking to meet their commitments under the convention ahead of next year's review meeting. Sweden's submission reflects a particularly intensive licensing phase for its used fuel management programme.

Participants in Sweden's public hearings visit the area around Söderviken, near Forsmark, where SKB intends to build a repository (Image: SKB)

The Joint Convention, the first legal instrument to address directly the issues of used fuel and radioactive waste on a global scale, was opened for signature on 29 September 1997 and entered into force in 2001. It currently has 76 contracting parties, including Euratom. Two signatory states - Lebanon and the Philippines - have yet to ratify it.

The Joint Convention applies to used fuel and radioactive waste resulting from civilian nuclear reactors and applications. It also applies to used fuel and radioactive waste from military or defence programmes, if such materials are transferred permanently to and managed within exclusively civilian programmes. It aims to achieve and maintain a high level of safety worldwide in used fuel and radioactive waste management through ensuring the availability of effective defences against potential hazards, preventing radiological accidents and mitigating their consequences should they occur.

Every three years, contracting parties exchange national reports on how they meet their obligations under the convention. The reports are subjected to a peer review process, and are presented and discussed at review meetings, the next of which is scheduled to take place in May 2018.

Parties were required to submit their latest reports to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which serves as the secretariat for the Joint Convention, by 23 October. The parties then have until 23 February 2018 to submit questions and comments about the reports, and until 23 April to submit answers to such questions, before the review meeting begins on 21 May.

The IAEA's guidelines state that contracting parties are encouraged to make their national reports - or summaries of them - public. The reports also "provide comprehensive information on the safety of spent fuel management and on the safety of radioactive waste management in the State concerned in a clearly arranged manner," the Agency notes in its guidelines.

Intense time for Sweden

Sweden's report, published by the country's Ministry of the Environment and Energy on 23 October, reflects an intensive licensing phase in the country's nuclear fuel management programme. The first of five weeks of hearings on waste management company Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB's (SKB's) application for a licence to build a system for management and disposal of the country's nuclear fuel began on 5 Septmber. Hearings have so far been held in the municipalities of Oskarshamn and Östhammar and in Stockholm, where a final week of hearings is now under way.

The Swedish regulator, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM), and the country's Land and Environment Court are responsible for reviewing the application for a repository for used fuel at Forsmark and an encapsulation plant at Oskarshamn. They expect to submit final recommendations on the application for a government decision in 2018. At the same time, a regulatory review of an application to extend the existing SFR repository for low- and intermediate-level waste at Forsmark is under way.

"The report gives an overview of Sweden's nuclear waste programme and specifically highlights the ongoing permit test for the nuclear fuel repository and the expansion of SFR," SSM's Björn Dverstorp said yesterday.

Other country reports or summaries made public this week include those of Canada, published by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC); Finland, published by the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK); and Switzerland, published by the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI).

The CNSC said its report, prepared collaboratively by government, industry and the regulator, "demonstrates how Canada continues to meet its obligations under the terms of the Joint Convention", focusing specifically on the progress of long-term management initiatives for used fuel and radioactive waste in Canada.

ENSI's report covers radioactive waste in interim storage facilities, the status of the site selection process for deep geological repositories, with three proposed Swiss sites, and the decommissioning of nuclear facilities.

STUK said Finland had seen "real progress in spent nuclear fuel disposal, as well as the enhancement of spent fuel interim storage safety" since the previous report.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

Date: Thursday, 26 October 2017
Original article: world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Countries-update-on-waste-management-progress