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IAEA Mission Says Estonia Committed to Safe Management of Radioactive Waste, Sees Areas for Further Enhancement

10/2019
Tallinn, Estonia

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Estonia’s national programme for managing radioactive waste demonstrated a commitment to safety, while also noting areas where it could be further enhanced.

The Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) team concluded a nine-day mission to Estonia on 1 April. The mission was requested by the Government of Estonia and hosted by the Ministry of Environment, with the participation of the Environmental Board, Environment Inspectorate and A.L.A.R.A. Ltd., the state-owned radioactive waste management organization.

ARTEMIS missions provide independent expert advice from an international team of specialists convened by the IAEA. Reviews are based on the IAEA safety standards and technical guidance as well as international good practices. The mission to Estonia aimed to help the country meet European Union obligations that require an independent review of national programmes for the management of radioactive waste and spent fuel. 

While Estonia does not operate any nuclear power plants, it manages small waste streams from the use of radioactive sources in industry, medicine and to a small extent in education and research. Most of the waste will arise from decommissioning Soviet-era facilities, including a former repository and two defueled reactors.

“Estonia has adopted a coherent approach to ensure safe and effective management of radioactive waste, including plans to enable the safe decommissioning of legacy facilities and final disposal of all the country’s radioactive waste,” said ARTEMIS team leader Cherry Tweed, Chief Scientific Adviser at Radioactive Waste Management, United Kingdom.

The ARTEMIS review team comprised four experts from Hungary, Portugal, Switzerland and the United Kingdom as well as three IAEA staff members. The team observed that many aspects relevant to the safe and effective management of radioactive waste in Estonia are in place. Recommendations and suggestions provided by the team included: 

  • The Government should ensure that all responsible state bodies take an active role in the effective delivery of their responsibilities on radioactive waste management.
  • The Government should ensure that mechanisms are in place to provide the necessary human, technical and financial resources to deliver all aspects of the national programme.
  • A.L.A.R.A. Ltd. should develop a preliminary safety case with supporting safety assessments for all proposed disposal facilities.

“Even though the production of radioactive waste is very limited in Estonia, it has been important for us to seek confirmation that our plans and strategies for the safe and effective management of radioactive waste are adequate,” said Meelis Münt, Secretary General of the Ministry of Environment. “The recommendations will help us to further enhance compliance with international safety standards.”

Peter Johnston, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety, said authorities in Estonia were transparent and constructive in their discussions.

“Estonia has prepared well for receiving this ARTEMIS mission, which aims to help further develop the effective delivery of its commitments to the continuous improvement of the safe management of radioactive waste,” Johnston said.

The final mission report will be provided to the Government in about two months. The Government has already decided to make the report public.

About ARTEMIS

ARTEMIS is an integrated expert review service for radioactive waste and spent fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programmes. This service is intended for facility operators and organizations responsible for radioactive waste management, as well as for regulators, national policy makers and other decision makers.

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