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Iraq Decommissioning Project

IAEA General Conference


Ministerial-level officials from the Iraqi government, along with high-level officials and scientists from participating Member States reviewed eight years of challenges and lessons learned from decommissioning damaged and contaminated nuclear facilities in Iraq. The venue was a side event on the Iraq Decommissioning Project jointly hosted by Iraq and the IAEA as part of the IAEA General Conference. (Photo: J. Brazda/IAEA)

On 18 September 2013, the IAEA and the Government of Iraq jointly hosted a Forum on the Iraq Decommissioning Project on the sidelines of the 57th IAEA General Conference. In attendance were the Iraqi Minister of Science and Technology, the Iraqi Minister of Environment and a host of high-level officials and scientists from participating Member States. The purpose of the Forum was to review eight years of accomplishments and lessons learned through the decommissioning and remediation of damaged and contaminated nuclear facilities located throughout Iraq.

In 2004, the Government of Iraq had requested assistance from the IAEA in decommissioning its damaged nuclear facilities. The result was the creation of the Iraq Decommissioning Project (IDP) and its first technical meeting took place in 2006 at which the following objectives were established: the remediation and decommissioning of Iraqi nuclear facilities, the development of national legislation for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and the development of a national waste management policy and strategy. During the following months, two important lists were conceived; a list of sites and a prioritization system and it was agreed that implementation of the planned action would take place in three phases. In phase one low risk sites were to be addressed, such as the Geo-Pilot Plant. This was decided due to the lack of expertise and the need to develop experience while maintaining safety for the team. The second phase would address high risk facilities such as the Tammuz-2, a French pool-type reactor and the Adayia burial site located 50 kilometres west of Mosul. The third and final phase covers all other sites within the country.

The project faced numerous challenges during its eight years of operation. Most of the facilities suffered heavy damage due to bombing in 1991. In 2003, the country entered into another crisis resulting in the looting of sites and the loss of important records needed for decommissioning and remediation. Insufficient information, the breakdown of national infrastructure and the poor condition of the facilities increased the challenges faced by the project. These challenges were overcome with the help of a coalition of international experts sent from Texas Tech University, Sandia National Laboratories, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. With this team in place the IDP was able to decommission or remediate several sites in phase one of the project, establish waste management activities, build the Iraqi nuclear regulatory infrastructure as well as re-establish ties between Iraq's nuclear and radiation specialists and their colleagues abroad. The project also highlighted the ability of the IAEA to effectively foster international cooperation and the efficiency of the extra-budgetary system within the IAEA.

The Forum focused on the many successes, and lessons learned, as a result of the cooperation of Member States in the Iraq Decommissioning Project. Importantly, the Forum also stressed the need for continued international support as decommissioning and remediation move into phase two and beyond.

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