An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste & Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning & Remediation (ARTEMIS) mission says the Czech Republic has established a solid basis for the safe and responsible management of radioactive waste and used fuel. The team also made recommendations regarding plans for a deep geological repository (DGR) and for possible expansion of the nuclear power programme.

The 10-day mission was requested by the Czech Government to support its need to meet EU obligations for independent reviews of national frameworks and programmes for managing radioactive waste and used fuel. It considered the findings from a recent IAEA Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) review mission.

The Czech Republic operates six nuclear power reactors at two NPPs – four units at Dukovany NPP and two at Temelin NPP. The Government has initiated a tender for a new unit in Dukovany and is also considering the possible construction of one more unit in Dukovany and one or two new units in Temelín. The deploying small and medium-sized (or modular) reactors is also under consideration.

After storage in pools for 7-10 years, used fuel is kept in dry storage facilities at the NPP sites. A shallow land repository for low-level radioactive waste from both NPPs is located at the Dukovany NPP site. The Government plans to commission a DGR for used fuel and shortlisted four possible sites in 2020.

A repository for low and intermediate-level waste from medical and industrial use is situated in a former limestone mine, Richard, near Litoměřice in the north of the Czech Republic. Thre is also another repository for waste from health, industry and research sectors containing naturally occurring radionuclides near Jáchymov in the northwestern.

The ARTEMIS team comprised six experts from France, Hungary, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Sweden, the UK and two IAEA staff members.

The team held extensive discussions with representatives of the Ministry of Industry & Trade, the Czech Radioactive Waste Repository Authority (SÚRAO), the State Office for Nuclear Safety (SÚJB), the operator of the NPPs (ČEZ), and the Nuclear Research Institute Řež (ÚJV Řež). The team also visited the Richard facility, where they received briefings on the waste package testing site and the underground caverns holding low and intermediate-level waste.

The team commended the strong commitment of the Government and all involved organisations to ensure the safe management of radioactive waste. It concluded that many relevant aspects for the safe management of radioactive waste and used fuel are in place.

“The Czech Republic has put in place many aspects relevant to the safe management of radioactive waste and spent fuel,” said ARTEMIS team leader Sylvie Voinis, Deputy Director of Safety, Environment & Waste Management strategy at the French National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (ANDRA). “By adequately considering the outcomes of the present review, the Czech Republic will be in a good position to continue meeting high standards of safety for radioactive waste and spent fuel management in the country.”

The team also provided recommendations to maintain and further improve the safe management of radioactive waste, including:

  • The Government should consider undertaking an in-depth review of the potential impacts on the financing arrangements of an expanded scope and extended duration of the country’s nuclear power programme.
  • The Government should consider undertaking a review of the potential impact of radioactive waste and spent fuel from additional nuclear power reactors which could be included in a future State Energy Policy.
  • SÚRAO should consider further enhancing plans and resources for engagement with interested parties, in particular with potential host communities, to ensure sustained and effective engagement beyond the site selection phase of the DGR.

The review team also acknowledged the mechanisms for verifying the alignment of the individual organizations’ strategies with the national policy and for ensuring the alignment between the strategies as a good practice.

“SURAO, as a waste disposal implementor, highly appreciates all technical discussions and observations that underline the good basis for safe and responsible waste management. It is based on the high technical competence and the solid performance of all organizations and facilities ensuring the safety of radioactive waste disposal in the Czech Republic,” said SÚRAO Director Lukáš Vondrovic.

“On behalf of the Czech counterparts, we appreciate the approach of foreign experts and thank them for the intensive discussion in the last ten days. The observations and recommendations will help us to improve the radioactive waste and spent fuel management framework and programme, an essential part of the nuclear programme development in the Czech Republic. We are confident that we have set a good path for further improving the plans for the future DGR,” said Tomáš Ehler, acting Director General of the Section of Energy & Nuclear Sources of the Ministry of Industry.

The final report from the review will be provided to the Government of the Czech Republic in two months.

Image: Radwaste storage at he Richard facility near Litomerice (courtesy of SURAO)