Romania is committed to the safe and sustainable management of radioactive waste, a team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has concluded. It noted opportunities for improving implementation including preparations for further disposal facilities for radioactive waste from nuclear fuel cycle activities.

Romania's Cernavoda nuclear power plant (Image: Nuclearelectrica)

The Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (Artemis) mission - hosted by the Nuclear and Radioactive Waste Agency (ANDR), within the Ministry of Energy - took place on 13-22 March. 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.

The mission was requested by the Romanian government to fulfil the country's European Union obligations that require an independent review of EU Member States' national programmes for the management of radioactive waste and used nuclear fuel. The team comprised six experts from Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and the UK, supported by three IAEA staff members. The mission involved detailed discussions with Romanian counterparts to review specific topics such as the national strategy for radioactive waste, the radioactive waste inventory and the financing of radioactive waste management.

Romania generates radioactive waste from its sole nuclear power plant, at Cernavoda, which produces 20% of the country's electricity. The plant consists of two 650 MWe pressurised heavy-water reactors. Unit 1 entered commercial operation in 1996 and unit 2 in 2007. In addition, Romania operates a research reactor, a nuclear fuel manufacturing plant and uses radioactive sources in medical and industrial applications. Another research reactor is in decommissioning.

Radioactive waste in Romania comprises material from fuel cycle activities and other institutional radioactive waste from research, industry and hospitals. Institutional radioactive waste is currently disposed of at the National Repository Radioactive Waste (DNDR) facility. The government plans to build two further disposal facilities for radioactive waste from nuclear fuel cycle activities. The first facility for short-lived low and intermediate-level waste is to be constructed near the Cernavoda plant. It is planned to begin operations in 2028. The second facility, a deep geological disposal facility for high-level waste, is planned to be commissioned around 2055. The location has not yet been determined.

"Romania has developed a comprehensive approach to the management of radioactive waste and is committed to further develop and implement safe and sustainable radioactive waste management, whilst continually seeking to minimise waste generation," said mission team leader Richard Cummings, technical director of Nuclear Waste Services of the UK. "The government is well aware of the necessary steps to ensure the safe management of its radioactive waste and is aiming to acquire the appropriate expertise."

The team made a number of recommendations and suggestions, including: ANDR should improve the waste management strategy to take account of the links between the different steps of radioactive waste management, as well as the impact of the anticipated disposal options; ANDR should finalise the plans for involving interested parties, in particular with communities that may host the deep geological disposal site, to ensure that they are properly engaged in the site selection process; and the government should allocate appropriate funding, including for the nuclear safety regulator, to further build and strengthen the capacity to implement the national strategy for radioactive waste management.

"Romania has sought to follow safety standards and apply international good practices and to harness information-sharing opportunities when it came to establishing procedures for our national waste management," said ANDR President Mihaita Gaina. "The report from this Artemis mission will provide us with welcome recommendations and suggestions to ensure we reach further and maintain a high level of safety."

The mission team will submit its final report to the Romanian government in about two months. The government intends to make the report public.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Thursday, 07 April 2022
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