• English
  • العربية
  • 中文
  • Français
  • Русский
  • Español

You are here

Joint IAEA-ICTP Virtual School Highlights Global Interest in Radioactive Waste Cementation


Participants in the recent Joint ICTP-IAEA International School on Radioactive Waste Cementation.

Sixty participants from 30 countries shared their knowledge of cementation in the conditioning of radioactive waste at a recent IAEA event, underscoring the high level of global interest in addressing radioactive waste inventories.

The Joint ICTP-IAEA International School on Radioactive Waste Cementation, jointly organized by the IAEA and the Trieste, Italy-based Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), was the first of its kind on this topic. Held virtually from 15 October to 25 November, the school featured vibrant debates on a variety of topics including cement chemistry, the latest theoretical and experimental advances and technological approaches to waste cementation.

“Radioactive waste management is indispensable for the sustainability of nuclear power and employing proven methods to implement long-term solutions for this waste, including the use of cementation, is absolutely crucial,” said Mikhail Chudakov, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy. “The successful implementation of this technique requires dynamic thinking together with in-depth knowledge of a wide range of chemical processes, and I am greatly encouraged to see such a high degree of interest in this topic, as evidenced by the high number of participants.”

Cementation involves the mixing of radioactive waste in a specialized cement formulated to immobilize the radionuclides and limit their release during disposal. It is a well-established and proven process for preparing radioactive waste for storage and disposal. The technique is already employed by numerous countries and is suitable for use with a wide range of waste types.  All the beneficial uses of radioactive material - in medicine, science and electricity generation - result in small quantities of radioactive waste. Countries take their responsibilities for its management seriously.  Well-proven and readily available techniques, such as cementation, provide countries with an opportunity to condition their waste for storage and disposal.  Many types of low- and intermediate-level radioactive wastes are suitable for cementation, such as liquid wastes arising from effluent treatment facilities and wastes resulting from decommissioning activities. 

The school took place completely online and saw an approximately four-fold increase in active participants from previous editions, including women professionals who made up more than a third of attendees. While the school is normally conducted in-person over five days at ICTP headquarters, the virtual format allowed it to be held over a six‑week period. Not only did this facilitate covering more topics in greater depth but it also enabled more people to participate. In addition, after the first two weeks of lectures, the organizers carefully analysed questions from students and prepared new lectures to respond to questions and prompt further discussion.  

“I found the presentations with references to real applications especially useful,” said Valentina D’Andrea, Head of the Chemical and Process Specialist Discipline at Sogin, the Italian state-owned company responsible for decommissioning and radioactive waste management. “This was a great opportunity to compare different approaches with other specialists and learn from each other.”

Lecturers from Austria, Egypt, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America presented on a range of cementation topics, from chemical durability and long-term performance to retention of radionuclides in cement-based materials. Participants and lecturers exchanged ideas and clarified details, using interactive ‘chat’ and through specific lectures.  Students also had the chance to present their own case studies to the group. 

“I learned a lot from the presentations and appreciated the opportunity to ask questions, and more importantly, to get answers,” said Dalia Grigaliuniene of the Lithuanian Energy Institute’s Nuclear Engineering Laboratory. “Incorporating participants’ questions into the second round of presentations was challenging but very worthwhile.” Participants were also able to submit additional questions during the second round to be answered via e-mail, she added.

“When we set out to run this school online, we didn’t know what to expect and I was delighted with the passion to learn shown by the students and the high quality material delivered by the lecturers,” said Willie Meyer, the IAEA Scientific Secretary of the school. “We paid a lot of attention to making sure that knowledge was effectively transferred and to creating a vigorous dynamic—this all seems to have been effective.”

In addition to interactive schools, the IAEA supports Member States in radioactive waste management through initiatives including publications, professional networks (including IPN, LABONET, DSRSNet, DISPONET and URF), coordinated research projects, training events, ARTEMIS peer review missions as well as public outreach materials (such as animations and films) and guidance on communication approaches, through the Nuclear Communicators Toolbox. The recently launched Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Information System (SRIS) provides an overview of radioactive waste inventories around the world as well as information on management activities and approaches. Interested countries are invited to nominate their Country Coordinators, to learn more about SRIS.   

Stay in touch