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IAEA Mission Says Portugal Committed to the Safe Management of Radioactive Waste, Sees Areas for Improvement

Lisbon, Portugal
Flag of Portugal

Photo: fdecomite/flickr (fdecomite via flickr)

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission said that Portugal is committed to ensuring the safe and effective management of radioactive waste. The mission also noted a need to further develop the national radioactive waste management programme and advised the country to allocate adequate resources for its long-term implementation, particularly for disposal.

The Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) team concluded a nine-day mission to Portugal on 22 May. The mission was carried out at the request of Portugal and hosted by the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA).

Portugal does not operate any nuclear power plants. The country generates low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste from using radiation sources in medical and industrial applications, as well as in science and research and from decommissioning facilities and laboratories from past research and development activities. Portugal has one research reactor that is in a permanent shutdown state. Past and present non-nuclear industrial activities have generated significant amounts of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM).

ARTEMIS missions provide independent expert advice from teams of international specialists convened by the IAEA. They cover all aspects and topics related to managing radioactive waste and spent fuel, decommissioning and remediation. Reviews are based on the IAEA Safety Standards, technical guidance, and international good practices.

The team, which comprised four experts from Belgium, Italy, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom as well as three IAEA staff members, met with senior management and staff from APA, the General Inspection for Agriculture, Sea, Environment and Spatial Planning (IGAMAOT), the Portuguese Authority for Working Conditions (ACT), the Economic and Food Safety Authority (ASAE) and the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST). An observer from the European Commission attended the mission, which also aims to support Portugal in meeting European Union obligations that require an independent review of national frameworks and programmes for managing radioactive waste and spent fuel.

In its assessment, the ARTEMIS team considered findings from a February 2022 Integrated Regulatory Review Service, which assessed the country’s overall nuclear regulatory framework. Together, the two reviews comprehensively evaluated Portugal’s legal and governmental framework and regulatory infrastructure for nuclear safety and waste management.

The ARTEMIS team found that Portugal demonstrated commitment and ability to enhance the safety of radioactive waste management. The team recognized Portugal’s dedication to further develop a comprehensive national policy and strategy for ensuring the safety of long-term radioactive waste management and said the Government had improved the regulatory framework by establishing a new independent regulatory body.

“Portugal has most of the elements in place for the national programme for managing radioactive waste, in particular for safe predisposal management”, said ARTEMIS team leader Christophe Depaus from the National Agency for Radioactive Waste and Enriched Fissile Material in Belgium. “Our review highlights the strengths of the Portuguese programme and identifies areas for improvement.”

The team also identified recommendations and suggestions to maintain and further improve the safe and responsible management of radioactive waste in Portugal, including:

  • Further developing a comprehensive national policy that sets out the preferred options for radioactive waste management.
  • Updating the national radioactive waste inventory to include anticipated wastes associated with decommissioning and NORM.
  • Updating financial liability estimates for all aspects of radioactive waste management to ensure that long-term budgets include sufficient provisions, particularly for disposal.

“The findings of this mission give us sustenance to continue and enhance our work and support us in drafting sound policies and strategies for the safe management of radioactive waste to maintain a high level of safety for the public and the environment,” said Nuno Lacasta, President of the Management Board of APA.

“I am confident that recommended improvements related to the safe management of radioactive waste will be considered and implemented,” said Hildegarde Vandenhove, Director of the IAEA Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety.

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


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 policymakers and other decision-makers.

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. IAEA documents, such as Nuclear Energy Series publications, are also included in the review basis. They include practical examples to be used by owners and operators of utilities, implementing organizations, academia, and government officials in Member States, among others.


Last update: 26 May 2023

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