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The Czech Republic has created a solid base for the further development of the country's radioactive waste management system, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts has concluded.

The mission team visited the Richard repository for low and intermediate-level waste (Image: SÚRAO)

The IAEA sent an Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (Artemis) mission to the Czech Republic at the request of the government via the Ministry of Industry and Trade in 2018. It considered the findings from a recent IAEA Integrated Regulatory Review Service mission.

Artemis missions provide independent expert opinion and advice, drawn from an international team of specialists convened by the IAEA. Reviews are based on IAEA safety standards and technical guidance, as well as international good practices. An Artemis review team - comprising six experts from France, Hungary, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Sweden, the UK, plus two IAEA staff members and an observer from the European Commission - concluded the ten-day mission to the Czech Republic on 25 October.

The Czech Republic operates six reactors at two nuclear power plants: four units at Dukovany and two at Temelin. After storage in pools for 7-10 years, used fuel is kept in dry storage facilities at the plant sites. A shallow land repository for low-level waste from both plants is located at the Dukovany site. The government plans to commission a deep geological repository for used fuel and shortlisted four possible sites in 2020.

A repository for low and intermediate-level waste from medical and industrial use is situated in a former limestone mine, Richard, near Litoměřice in the north of the Czech Republic. Another repository for waste from health, industry and research sectors containing naturally occurring radionuclides is near Jáchymov in the northwestern part of the country.

The Artemis team commended the strong commitment of the government and all involved organisations to ensure the safe management of radioactive waste. It concluded that many relevant aspects for the safe management of radioactive waste and used fuel are in place.

"The Czech Republic has put in place many aspects relevant to the safe management of radioactive waste and spent fuel," said team leader Sylvie Voinis, Deputy Director of Safety, Environment and Waste Management strategy at the French National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management. "By adequately considering the outcomes of the present review, the Czech Republic will be in a good position to continue meeting high standards of safety for radioactive waste and spent fuel management in the country."

The team also provided recommendations and suggestions regarding plans for a deep geological repository and to ensure readiness for a potential expansion and prolongation of the country's nuclear power programme. These include: the government should consider undertaking an in-depth review of the potential impacts on the financing arrangements of an expanded scope and extended duration of the country's nuclear power programme; the government should consider undertaking a review of the potential impact of radioactive waste and used fuel from additional nuclear power reactors which could be included in a future State Energy Policy; and the Czech Radioactive Waste Repository Authority (SÚRAO) should consider further enhancing plans and resources for engagement with interested parties, in particular with potential host communities, to ensure sustained and effective engagement beyond the site selection phase of the deep geological repository.

"SÚRAO very much appreciates the professional discussions it held with the IAEA experts," said the Authority's Managing Director, Lukáš Vondrovic. "We are pleased that the Agency has confirmed that we manage the Czech Republic's radioactive waste both safely and responsibly. All the organisations involved in ensuring the safety of radioactive waste disposal demonstrated a high level of professionalism during the assessment process."

The final report from the review will be provided to the Czech government in two months.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Friday, 03 November 2023
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