Waste Technology Section


Constraints to Implementing Decommissioning and Environmental Remediation Programmes


Managing the legacies from the activities associated with the development of atomic weapons programmes and the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes continues to present significant challenges to countries throughout the world. There are currently also significant legacies from non-nuclear industries which involve accumulations of naturally-occurring radioactive material (NORM), e.g. as a result of activities such as the extraction of oil and gas. Facilities requiring decommissioning include nuclear reactors and associated fuel cycle and research facilities related to electricity generation and plutonium production for atomic weapons programmes, together with facilities for the production of radioisotopes for medical and other purposes and facilities used for temporary storage of radioactive waste. Radioactively-contaminated sites may include research or defence sites, former uranium production sites and areas affected by nuclear or radiological accidents.

Extensive decommissioning and environmental remediation (D&ER) programmes have been implemented in many countries to deal with the above legacies. Although some countries have achieved substantial progress, many are facing significant difficulties in implementing their programmes. Continued failure to address the above liabilities may result in unacceptable health, safety and security risks to the general public and to workers and increased risks to the environment. There are also strong ethical reasons why the current generation should allocate appropriate resources for managing these liabilities and thus avoid passing on undue burdens to future generations.

Project Overview

The primary objective of the CIDER project is to contribute to improving current levels of performance on decommissioning and environmental remediation projects, particularly in situations where progress is impaired - see Project Terms of Reference. An analysis of the factors that hinder progress in implementing D&ER programmes is being undertaken and actual experiences and solutions for overcoming these constraints in IAEA Member States is being documented. The project benefits from the involvement of other international organisations including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Commission (EC).

The first phase of the project, taking place from 2013 through to 2015, is aimed at raising awareness of the importance of D&ER at radioactively-contaminated sites and at promoting greater cooperation among IAEA Member States and international organisations involved in the implementation of relevant programmes. A ‘baseline report’ is being produced—for use by policy makers and other interested parties—providing an analysis of constraints to the implementation of projects and making recommendations on how these may be overcome, taking benefit of real case situations.

Once the first phase of the CIDER project is completed, a second phase of the project will be implemented provided appropriate support is obtained from the participating Member States. This phase would focus on the elaboration of specific actions and/or innovative approaches for application to specific situations in which little progress is being achieved in implementing D&ER programmes.

Baseline Report

The baseline report identifies critical barriers to the implementation of D&ER and describes different strategies that may help to overcome them. It is written in language appropriate to a non-technical audience, including persons with policy-making responsibilities. This report is now available here

Should you have comments on the CIDER project, you are invited to send these to the scientific secretariat for the project, via: NEFW.Contact-Point@iaea.org.

Synopsis of the Baseline Report

The barriers to implementing D&ER programmes include: lack of national policy and strategies for D&ER; absence of adequate legal, regulatory and funding frameworks, lack of appropriate infrastructure (including human, technological and financial resources) and lack of appropriate strategies to educate, communicate and engage a wide range of stakeholders on the rationale and objectives of D&ER projects. Implementation of D&ER projects may have significant impacts on living conditions in the affected communities and it is therefore important to engage with all relevant stakeholders on decisions about the end state that should be achieved following a specific D&ER project, which decision will have significant implications for implementation of the cleanup activities and for the resources that will need to be applied to the project.

Strategies that can help in overcoming barriers to implementation of D&ER programmes include:

  • implementation of national policies that encompass—
    • prioritization of D&ER projects and the establishment and assignment of roles and responsibilities of national entities dealing with D&ER; and
    • adoption of a graded approach in which the institutional and legal frameworks are commensurate with the scale of the problem being addressed;
  • use of risk-based approaches to decision making - to ensure that the available resources are used in an optimized way;
  • sharing of experiences, good practices and lessons-learned in comparable programmes through independent reviews;
  • application of lifecycle planning to assure that potential risks that could delay or even prevent the successful completion of the project are identified and addressed prior to project execution;
  • adoption of good communication strategies to encourage cooperation and understanding between different interested parties in D&ER projects; and,
  • (for situations where national financial resources are inadequate) the establishment of mechanisms for bilateral or multilateral funding support. Here, international donor organizations play an important role.

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