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Safety of Spent Fuel Management and Radioactive Waste Management: Workshop Promotes Adherence to International Convention


(Illustration: F. Nassif/IAEA)

A workshop to promote the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management ended yesterday in Rabat, Morocco. The three-day event — hosted by Morocco, a Contracting Party to this international legal instrument since its entry into force in 2001 — helped raise awareness among decision-makers from African countries that have not yet acceded to it.

“Radioactive waste and spent fuel should be managed safely, securely, and responsibly,” said Khammar Mrabit, Director General of the Moroccan Nuclear and Radiological Safety and Security Agency. “The Joint Convention is the only legally binding international instrument that offers a platform for contracting parties to contribute to achieving and maintaining a high level of safety of spent fuel and radioactive waste management worldwide.”

In addition to achieving and maintaining a high level of safety, the Convention aims to ensure the availability of effective defences against potential hazards, to prevent accidents with radiological consequences and to mitigate their consequences, should they occur.

Mrabit added that “it is in the interest of all countries to join this Convention so that individuals, society and the environment are protected from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation, now and in the future.”

Tailored to African States, the workshop was part of the IAEA’s effort to encourage universal adherence to and implementation of the Joint Convention. “The IAEA offers various tools and mechanisms to support States in this endeavour, should they decide to join,” said Peri Lynne Johnson, Legal Advisor and Director of the IAEA Office of Legal Affairs.

Participants from Burkina Faso, Egypt, Mali, Sudan and Uganda heard about the different aspects of the Joint Convention: from its history, key requirements, peer-review process and achievements, to its future prospects. They offered national perspectives and shared experiences on policies and programmes aimed at safely managing radioactive waste and, if appropriate, spent fuel, in their countries.

“The essential feature of this Convention includes the peer review process, which allows Contracting Parties to exchange and discuss experiences in the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste,” said Peter Johnston, Director of the IAEA Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety.

The Joint Convention is a comprehensive instrument that offers several advantages to its Contracting Parties, Johnston added. “We should aim to ensure that it becomes universal in its adherence and implementation.”

Rosemary Byanyima from the Atomic Energy Council of Uganda and Bashir Eltayeb from the Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority of Sudan said that the workshop offered an opportunity to learn about the relevance, procedure, benefits and obligations in regard to the Joint Convention.

Along with the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Joint Convention represents a cornerstone of the international legal framework for nuclear safety. The universalization of these two conventions is a priority for the IAEA.

The Joint Convention was adopted in September 1997 and entered into force in June 2001. As of December 2017, it has 76 Contracting Parties.

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