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

41/2018
Luxembourg, Luxembourg

Members of the ARTEMIS team together with counterparts from the Ministry of Health of Luxembourg on 28 September 2018 (Photo: Ministry of Health of Luxembourg)

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

The Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) team concluded a five-day mission to Luxembourg on 28 September. The mission was requested by the Government of Luxembourg and hosted by the Ministry of Health, with the participation of the Department of Radiation Protection (DRP), which is responsible for radioactive waste management in the country.

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 Luxembourg 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.

Luxembourg does not operate any nuclear power plants and has only a small amount of radioactive waste from medical and other activities. Under its waste management strategy, short-lived radioactive materials are stored in the country before regulatory clearance, while legacy waste and disused radioactive sources are stored domestically before being sent to Belgium for subsequent management under a bilateral agreement.

“Luxembourg has adopted a coherent approach to ensure a comprehensive and safe management of radioactive waste, commensurate with the very small amounts of radioactive waste in the country,” said ARTEMIS team leader Vidas Paulikas, Deputy Head for Radiation Safety of Lithuania’s State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate.

While the team commended authorities for their pragmatic approach to waste management, it also pointed to areas where additional work would benefit the programme. Recommendations and suggestions provided by the team included:

  • The Ministry of Health should enhance the regulatory framework for the safe predisposal management of radioactive waste, decommissioning of facilities and remediation activities in accordance with relevant IAEA safety standards.
  • The Ministry of Health should ensure the effective independence of the DRP as a regulatory authority from the operational radioactive waste management facility and activities.
  • The DRP should consider further developing the safety provisions and procedures for establishing the safety case and safety assessment for facilities and activities in the predisposal management of radioactive waste.

Predisposal refers to any radioactive waste management steps carried out prior to disposal, such as treatment, storage or transport activities.

The team comprised two experts from Lithuania and Cuba as well as three IAEA staff members.

“Even though the production of radioactive waste is very limited in Luxembourg, it has been important for us to seek confirmation that our plans and strategies for safe radioactive waste management are adequate,” said Patrick Majerus, Head of the DPR. “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 Luxembourg were well prepared for the mission and transparent in their discussions. 

“This mission provides feedback that will help further improve the development and implementation of the country’s radioactive waste management programme, including through the bilateral agreement with Belgium, and thereby further improve safety,” Johnston said.

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