Review of Malaysian Programme for Siting National Low Level Waste Repository
progress of Malaysian siting project
5 August 2011 | Malaysia has concluded the screening phase of a national project to determine the most appropriate potential site for a low level nuclear waste disposal facility in the country and invited the IAEA to organize an independent peer review of the progress made to date.
Malaysia has been following the recommended IAEA approach for siting of waste repositories, which includes four phases: (1) Planning, (2) Screening, (3) Site investigation and (4) Confirmation of the appropriate site(s).
A review team of external experts from the Czech Republic, Spain and Switzerland and an IAEA expert recently visited Malaysia and assessed the screening work done, procedures applied, and recent results gathered which aim at identifying potential candidate sites.
"During this phase, the peninsular Malaysia was screened using a geographic information system (GIS) to identify the most suitable potential sites" said Mr Lumir Nachmilner of the IAEA Waste Technology Section and IAEA Scientific Secretary of the review mission.
The review team compared the results presented by local experts in eight large documents to internationally proven practices, discussed the complexity of the information gathered and suggested further activities to be considered in the siting project.
"The Malaysian experts performed the GIS and remote sensing-based site screening process with much skills and expertise. The project has obviously benefited from on-going IAEA assistance," noted the Team Chairman, Mr Peter Jordan. "A good working atmosphere provided ample opportunity for discussions of technical issues and sharing experience in planning and implementing future investigations", Mr Jordan said.
The review report with recommendations for further steps to be taken will be provided to the Malaysian Government by the end of August.
The commercial use of radioactive materials in Malaysia started in the early 1960s. About 12.5m3 of low level radioactive waste are generated every year, mainly from research activities and medical applications. These wastes are currently stored in a facility built in 2000 at Nuclear Malaysia, the national nuclear science and technology centre. The facility can accommodate waste up to the year 2025.
The Malaysian government approved the development of a repository for this low level waste in 2003. Recent national plans for introducing nuclear power in the country's energy mix increased importance of this capacity and capability: the repository shall be planned to also accept waste from potential nuclear power reactor operation and decommissioning.
Responsibility for developing national repository for low level radioactive waste was delegated to Nuclear Malaysia. However, this task requires support also from other departments, such as Public Work Department, Department of Minerals and Geoscience, and Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency.
The current screening study, aiming at methodology establishment and its application for peninsular Malaysia, has been developed by the Remote Sensing Agency based on a Memorandum of Understanding signed with Nuclear Malaysia in 2004.