Ten Years of Progress in Environmental Remediation
Approach to Uranium Legacy in Central Asia to Be Reviewed at IAEA-Led Conference
Environmental remediation is a global phenomenon. View of a site being remediated with the help of IAEA in Central Asia. (Photo: Peter Waggit)
In the past, many industries, such as uranium mining, were often developed without consideration for environmental safety issues, in a context that often lacked appropriate or effective environmental laws and regulations.
As a result, contaminated sites have been created worldwide by other nuclear activities such as defence programs operations, as well as nuclear and radiological accidents such as Chernobyl and Goiânia.
An IAEA-led international conference on environmental remediation to be held next week in Astana, Kazakhstan, will address these issues.
A similar environmental remediation conference took place in 1999 in Arlington, USA. As such, the Astana event represents a unique opportunity for experts to debate the achievements and new challenges that emerged over the last 10 years in the field of environmental remediation.
Participants are set to debate financing mechanisms and support for environmental remediation projects; regulatory issues; new technologies; and life-cycle planning and non-technical issues.
"Environmental remediation is not only constrained by the lack of financial resources. Appropriate technological solutions, human resources, good planning, involvement of the different stakeholders in the decision-making process and government commitment to the full implementation of environmental remediation programs are also very important components," says Horst Monken Fernandes, a nuclear engineer working for the IAEA´s Waste Technology Section.
"The absence of one or more of these elements have contributed to the slow pace of clean-up projects."
New Approach for Central Asia
Environmental remediation is a global phenomenon. However, of particular importance is the prevailing situation in some of the Central Asian republics, e.g. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, where the inadequate operations of uranium mining and processing for more than 50 years created a situation that poses public health risks and has significant consequences for the environment.
In 2005, the IAEA launched a Technical Cooperation programme (TC) to coordinate a regional project that involved all four Central Asian Member States in the remediation of uranium mining and milling sites in their territories.
This project is now being stepped up as the IAEA is leading an attempt to coordinate local and international efforts to tackle the issue. Taking advantage of the framework provided by the Astana conference, regional authorities, international organizations and donors are meeting to establish a coordinated regional approach to environmental remediation.
"The objectives of this project include the development of a consistent regulatory framework throughout the region, the evaluation of the application of the IAEA safety standards, and the development of an overall plan of action aiming at the future full implementation of environmental programs that can effectively contribute to improve the overall situation," says Didier Louvat, who heads the IAEA´s Waste and Environment Safety Section.
"While a form of overall technical coordination for the plan is required, a large degree of freedom would also remain in place. Donors would be able to select projects as they like and implement." The International Conference on Remediation of Land Contaminated by Radioactive Material Residues is to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan, from 18-22 May 2009.
The international organizations taking part in the five-day event include the Eurasian Economic Community; the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; the European Commission; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority; the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank.
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