FAQ

How is radioactive waste safely managed?

Answer

With the Joint Convention on the safety of spent fuel and on the safety of radioactive waste management: spent fuel from the operation of civilian nuclear reactors and radioactive waste from civilian applications, the IAEA safety standards and the review of sites, designs and operating sites, all these activities under the control of the regulator over long periods of time, safety and security are very strictly managed.

Background

Like any industry, nuclear fission technologies produce waste. However, the nuclear industry holds three great “advantages” in comparison with other industries. First, it produces very small amounts of waste compared to other energy producing industries. Of this waste only a small percentage (0.4%) is high level long life waste. Secondly, the level of radioactivity of the waste diminishes over time and finally disappears. This is not the case with waste from other industries. And thirdly, nuclear power is the only bulk energy producing technology that assumes full responsibility for all its waste. The industry is a pioneer in waste management.
The Joint Convention on the safety of spent fuel and on the safety of radioactive waste management: spent fuel from the operation of civilian nuclear reactors and radioactive waste from civilian applications; it is the legal instrument to govern the wastes technically on the basis of the IAEA safety standards.

The objective is:
* to ensure that during all stages of spent fuel and radioactive waste management there are effective defenses against
  potential hazards so that individuals, society and the environment are protected from harmful effects of ionizing  
  radiation, now and in the future, in such a way that the needs and aspirations of the present generation are met
  without  compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs and aspirations;
* to prevent accidents with radiological consequences and to mitigate their consequences should they occur during any   stage of spent fuel or radioactive waste management.

It shall apply to the safety of spent fuel management when the spent fuel results from the operation of civilian nuclear reactors and to the safety of radioactive waste management when the radioactive waste results from civilian applications. The countries should :
 * ensure that criticality and removal of residual heat generated during spent fuel management are adequately
   addressed;
* ensure that the generation of radioactive waste associated with spent fuel management is kept to the minimum
  practicable, consistent with the type of fuel cycle policy adopted;
* take into account interdependencies among the different steps in spent fuel management;
* provide for effective protection of individuals, society and the environment, by applying at the national level suitable
  protective methods as approved by the regulatory body, in the framework of its national legislation which has due
  regard to internationally endorsed criteria and standards;
 * take into account the biological, chemical and other hazards that may be associated with spent fuel management;
 * strive to avoid actions that impose reasonably predictable impacts on future generations greater than those permitted
   for the current generation;
 * aim to avoid imposing undue burdens on future generations.
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