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Building competences in nuclear waste management

It is widely accepted that the most appropriate method for the permanent disposal of high-level radioactive waste, spent nuclear fuel declared as waste and long-lived low and intermediate level waste is in geologic repositories. These large underground caverns are engineered deep within appropriate geological formations and are designed, constructed and operated for the safe, secure and permanent disposal of such wastes.
The status of waste management differs greatly among Member States. Countries with large nuclear programmes involving the generation of nuclear power are generally more advanced than countries with smaller amounts of waste that typically arise from research, medical applications and industry. In 2003, a five-year IAEA interregional technical cooperation project involving more than 20 countries was initiated to train specialists from Member States with less-developed repository programmes or no direct access to underground research facilities in nuclear waste management.

Delivery of the technical cooperation project was managed by the Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology within the framework of the underground research facility (URF) network, a forum of organizations interested in sharing their expertise on geological disposal. Through this framework, the IAEA provided training in the technologies that exist for the safe and secure management of high-level and long-lived wastes. The project focused in particular on human resource development activities. Participants also learned how to enhance public understanding of the safety and security aspects of interred nuclear waste, and to build public confidence in the safety and utility of geological repositories.

Since the start of the project, the IAEA has provided 16 interregional training courses, 2 scientific visits, 4 expert missions and 13 fellowships, training some 212 specialists from the participating countries. As a result, a comprehensive understanding on the fundamentals of high level waste disposal has been developed at both technical and senior management levels. Expertise has also been developed in specific technical areas, including repository design, mapping of groundwater flow, radionuclide migration analysis, rock mechanics and associated numerical modelling. In addition, participants have gained knowledge on the importance of effective dialogue in supporting collaboration between science and society.

Member States that took part in the project now have more highly trained specialists who can address the issues involved in selecting and characterizing a repository site. Trained personnel are able to put the technical site selection process into broader national and international societal contexts, with a more comprehensive understanding of the engineering, scientific, social and potentially political aspects that all play a part in the repository development process.

Argentina, Armenia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa and Ukraine participated in the project.


Responsible/Contact: Department of Technical Cooperation | Last update: 10 Apr, 2015

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