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IAEA Mission Finds Progress in Waste Management in Denmark, Sees Specific Areas for Improvement

Copenhagen, Denmark

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said that Denmark has developed and implemented a robust and well-functioning system for maintaining and further enhancing the safety and effectiveness of spent fuel and radioactive waste management.  The team also noted that the national programme for the management of radioactive waste should be further developed and its implementation requires significant efforts.

The Government of Denmark requested the IAEA Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) mission to provide an independent international evaluation of Denmark’s radioactive waste and spent fuel management, based on the relevant IAEA Safety Standards and proven international practices.

ARTEMIS missions provide independent expert advice from an international team of specialists convened by the IAEA. This mission was requested by Denmark to fulfil its European Union (EU) obligations that require an independent review of EU Member States’ national programmes for the management of radioactive waste and spent fuel. 

Denmark has no nuclear power plants but manages waste from the ongoing decommissioning of six nuclear facilities at Risø, including three research reactors, a hot cells facility, a fuel fabrication plant, and a waste treatment plant. The decommissioning waste is treated and stored by ‘Danish Decommissioning’, a state-owned company, which also manages radioactive waste from the previous operation of the facilities and the use of radiation sources in medicine, industry, and research in Denmark.

Denmark will build a new facility at the Risø site — scheduled to be operational in 2025 — for the storage of radioactive waste. The possibilities for deep geological disposal at a depth of 500 meters below surface are being considered, with the goal to transfer stored waste to the disposal facility at the latest by 2073.

During this visit, the mission team conducted interviews and discussions from 1 to 9 May with representatives of the Danish Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, the Danish Emergency Management Agency, the Danish Health Authority, Radiation Protection, and Danish Decommissioning. Based on these exchanges, covering subjects such as the national policy for waste, the waste inventory, and safety assessments, as well as a visit to facilities at the Risø site, the Team prepared a draft report, which was handed over at the official exit meeting held on 9 May.

“With the progress of the decommissioning activities, the approaching challenges in waste management are already in view for Danish Decommissioning,” said ARTEMIS team leader Stefan Theis, Deputy Director of Waste Management Department of the Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate (ENSI) in Switzerland. “We are confident that they will manage the upcoming transformation phase successfully and adjust their competences as needed.”

The ARTEMIS review team comprised four experts from Germany, Italy, Lithuania and Switzerland, supported by three IAEA staff members. The draft report prepared by the team contains recommendations and suggestions including: 

  • The Government should update the National Programme for the management of all types of radioactive waste to include appropriate interim targets and end states for the monitoring of the programme’s implementation.
  • The Government should establish a compliance assurance procedure for the implementation of the national programme.
  • The implementer for the planned new disposal facility should develop generic waste acceptance criteria for disposal and — as soon as a facility specific safety case is available — final waste acceptance criteria on the basis of regulatory body requirements.

“Denmark has implemented a coherent national policy for waste management and takes considerable efforts to ensure its implementation in line with IAEA safety standards,” said Peter Johnston, Director of the IAEA's Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety, at the exit meeting of the mission.  

“The observations and remarks of the independent experts of the IAEA ARTEMIS Mission to Denmark are much appreciated and will serve to guide further efforts of Denmark in the area of radioactive waste management,” said Kristoffer Brix Bertelsen, Senior Adviser from the Ministry of Higher Education and Science. “We consider the recommendations and suggestions of the mission as very useful inputs to the continuing development of Denmark’s national programme in this field, in particular the planning to achieve programme targets.”

The final mission report will be provided to the Government in about two months.


ARTEMIS is an IAEA peer review service for radioactive waste and spent fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programmes. This service, available to all IAEA Member States, is intended for facility operators and organizations as well as for regulators, national policy makers and other decision makers.

IAEA Safety Standards

The IAEA Safety Standards provide a robust framework of fundamental principles, requirements, and guidance to ensure safety. They reflect an international consensus and serve as a global reference for protecting people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.

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