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New CRP: Developing a Framework for the Effective Implementation of a Borehole Disposal System (T22002)

New Coordinated Research Project
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Radioactive sources are used worldwide in medicine, agriculture, industry and research. When they no longer emit sufficient radiation for the purpose for which they were intended, they still remain radioactive and must be properly managed as ‘disused sources’. (Photo: IAEA)

The IAEA is launching a new four-year Coordinated Research Project (CRP) to develop a standardized framework for the borehole disposal of disused sealed radioactive sources (DSRS) and small amounts of low and intermediate level waste. The framework will consist of a comprehensive and consistent set of specifications, procedures, guidance and training material addressing the technology aspects of all stages of the disposal programme. This will provide Member States with a package of essential materials for the development of the borehole disposal and make this disposal solution more readily implementable.

Sealed radioactive sources (SRSs) are globally used in agriculture, industry, medicine and various research areas.

Radioactive sources that are no longer in use are referred to as disused sealed radioactive sources. DSRS may still be sufficiently radioactive to be hazardous to people and the environment and therefore require careful management.

While there is a range of options for managing DSRS, such as recycling, repatriation, storage and disposal, in many cases the only viable route is disposal. In this regard, borehole disposal offers some specific advantages: it requires a small land area and infrastructure and it can be constructed, operated and closed in a short time.

CRP overall objective:

The objective of this CRP is to further strengthen the supporting information on the borehole disposal of DSRS and considering small quantities of other radioactive waste, making the borehole disposal option more readily implementable.

Specific objectives:

  • To consolidate a reference design and define typical waste inventories and the potential range of suitable geological conditions;
  • To develop design specifications and operating procedures for the concept, including a quality assurance and quality control plan;
  • To expand the technical and scientific basis underpinning the concept by incorporating relevant research, development and demonstration outcomes and experience from radioactive waste disposal programmes worldwide and by establishing a research and development programme for DSRS borehole disposal.

How to join the CRP:

For further information related to this CRP, interested institutions should contact the IAEA’s Research Contracts Administration Section. To submit a ‘Proposal for Research Contract’ or ‘Proposal for Research Agreement’ by 31 March 2019, please use the template here.

Background

The concept of disposing of DSRS in boreholes was first proposed in 1995. Since then, the idea has evolved into a well-defined, justifiable solution for the disposal of a wide spectrum of DSRS in different geological and climatic conditions.

Today, Ghana and Malaysia have made good progress towards implementing this system for their inventories of DSRS. One of the lessons learned from the implementation of borehole disposal projects in these two countries is that developing the technical documentation was challenging. It is therefore proposed to make the borehole disposal solution more readily implementable by developing a standardized framework of technical specifications and documentation.

The projects in Ghana and Malaysia have also catalysed interest in other countries, both in the application of this approach to small quantities of radioactive waste and to inventories of DSRS.

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