IAEA Deputy Director General Encourages Countries to Join Safety Convention on Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Management

At a two-week meeting beginning 11 May, over 700 delegates representing Contracting Parties to the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management have gathered to review and discuss their national reports, address the implementation of the Convention and respond to questions raised on their reports by other Parties. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA) 

To enhance nuclear safety worldwide, countries should join the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, and those that are already part of the framework should continue to actively participate in the Convention’s processes. This was the message from IAEA Deputy Director General Denis Flory at the opening of the fifth meeting of Convention’s Contracting Parties in Vienna today.

“The objectives of the Joint Convention… can best be realized with the broad addition of more Contracting Parties, and the active participation of all Contracting Parties in the review process,” said Flory, who heads the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Safety and Security. “There are still some Contracting Parties that have not submitted a national report, or that are not attending the Review Meeting, and/or have not responded to questions on their national report.”

The role of the national report is to explain how each contracting party complies with, or plans to comply with, the safety measures to manage spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste under the Convention. These reports are subject to the peer review, which is the focus of the review meetings held every three years.

During the current, two-week meeting, over 700 delegates representing Contracting Parties will review and discuss their national reports, address the implementation of the Convention and respond to questions raised on their reports by other Parties. They will also discuss progress made since the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident on the lessons learnt in respect to the safety of spent fuel and radioactive waste.

Review discussions aim to strengthen safety measures

The peer review process provides the Contracting Parties with an opportunity to evaluate and discuss in detail safety measures taken to implement the Joint Convention as well as identify any emerging issues.

At the Joint Convention’s previous review meeting in 2012, Contracting Parties agreed that the national reports for the 2015 review meeting should also include discussions on the management of sealed sources, the safety implications of extended storage periods and the delayed disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste, and international cooperation to find effective solutions to the long-term management and disposal of different types of radioactive waste and spent fuel.

Previous review meetings have also noted areas where significant progress has been made, as well as identifying future challenges that include the above-mentioned issues.

The Joint Convention’s role

The Joint Convention, the first legal instrument to directly address these topics on a global scale, was opened for signature on 29 September 1997 and subsequently, entered into force on 18 June 2001.

The Joint Convention applies to spent fuel and radioactive waste resulting from civilian nuclear reactors and applications and to spent fuel and radioactive waste from military or defence programmes if and when such materials are transferred permanently to and managed within exclusively civilian programmes, or when declared as spent fuel or radioactive waste for the purpose of the Conventiion by the Contracting Party. The Convention also applies to planned and controlled releases into the environment of liquid or gaseous radioactive materials from regulated nuclear facilities.

The Convention calls for review meetings of Contracting Parties. Each Contracting Party is required to submit a national report to each review meeting that addresses measures taken to implement each of the obligations of the Convention. The review meetings take place every three years.

The 69 Contracting Parties are: Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM).

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