More than 750 delegates representing 76 Contracting Parties to the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management are at the IAEA’s headquarters in Vienna to share their experiences and lessons learned in safely managing spent fuel and radioactive waste. This Seventh Review Meeting of the Joint Convention was originally scheduled for 2021, but was postponed until 27 June to 8 July this year due to the COVIC-19 pandemic.
Over the next two weeks, Contracting Parties will present and discuss their national reports so that through a constructive exchange of views they can learn from one another about solutions to common and individual safety issues related to spent fuel and radioactive waste management, and contribute to achieving and maintaining a high level of safety worldwide.
Hans Wanner, President of the Seventh Review Meeting, from Switzerland, welcomed the Contracting Parties, noting that the many nations and cultures that have come together presents a unique opportunity to exchange and to learn from each other. He recalled that the Contracting Parties were here now to fulfill the most important obligation of the Convention, namely to conduct an effective, rigorous and transparent peer review which will lead to the identification of measures to further strengthen nuclear safety globally.
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi highlighted the relevance of the Convention not only to countries with a major nuclear power programme, but to any country using radioactive sources. “More patients are getting lifesaving treatment for cancer. More countries are using nuclear science and technology to support their sustainable development goals, and more countries are turning to nuclear energy to address the climate and energy crisis,” he said in his opening remarks. “The use of nuclear material is rising. We are here today to ensure that the ensuing spent fuel and radioactive waste are managed safely, in accordance with the obligations of the Joint Convention and international safety standards,” he said.
“Good policies aren’t enough. They only work if they are implemented,” Mr Grossi added. In this context, he also highlighted the importance of steadfastly nurturing public trust over the long term.
Since the last Review Meeting in 2018, 10 new Contracting Parties have joined the Joint Convention, bringing the total number to 88. “We must redouble our efforts to increase the number of Contracting Parties so that we achieve a higher level of safety worldwide,” Mr Grossi said. “Radioactive waste is relevant to all countries.”
Mr Grossi also informed delegates of the IAEA’s preliminary discussions to support Ukraine, where needed, including with the safe management of radioactive sources, in particular disused and orphan sources. “Our experts are available to provide immediate remote assistance, for example to support the verification of the inventory of radioactive sources or for the provision of technical assessments; and teams are also ready to travel to Ukraine to deliver on-site support in areas such as source recovery and consolidation, and the safe and secure transportation of radioactive sources to centralized storage facilities.”
The Joint Convention, in force since 2001 under the auspices of the IAEA, is the only international legally binding instrument addressing the safety of spent fuel and radioactive waste management on a global scale.
During the review meeting, Contracting Parties will also take part in an open-ended working group to discuss procedural and other issues relevant to the functioning of the Convention, and will share their experiences and lessons learned in a topical session on stakeholder engagement in the management of radioactive waste from decommissioning activities and legacy sites.
“A major objective of the review is, through robust and candid discussion, to identify any good practices, areas of good performance, suggestions, challenges or other issues that may be an overarching common issue that should be highlighted as important to improving safety,” said Nelli Aghajanyan, Coordinator of the Joint Convention.
Last year marked the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Joint Convention.