IAEA says Croatia is committed to safe radwaste management

30 June 2023

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) mission concluded that Croatia is committed to addressing the challenges of managing its radioactive waste. The team also identified specific areas for additional efforts including the development of arrangements for the safe and secure centralised storage of radioactive waste.

The nine-day mission to Croatia was carried out at the request of Croatia and hosted by the Croatian Fund (The Fund) for Financing the Decommissioning of the Krško NPP. The review evaluated Croatia’s national framework, strategy and national programme for fulfilling its obligations for safe and sustainable management of used fuel and radioactive waste.

Croatia and Slovenia are co-owners of the Krško NPP, which is located in Slovenia. The ARTEMIS team focused on plans for the management of radioactive waste from the Krško plant and plans for the establishment of a Radioactive Waste Management Centre at Cerkezovac in Croatia.

The ARTEMIS team comprised five experts from Canada, France, Norway, Sweden and the UK and three IAEA staff members. As the review was requested to support Croatia’s need to meet EU obligations for independent reviews of national frameworks and programmes for managing radioactive waste and spent fuel, an observer from the European Commission also attended. The team met with representatives of the Fund, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Economy & Sustainable Development, and nuclear utility Nuklearna Elektrarna Krško.

Used fuel from the Krško NPP is initially stored at the plant pending disposed of in a geological disposal facility which is planned to be developed at a location in Croatia or Slovenia. Low-level and intermediate-level waste from the plant is initially stored at the plant. However, there are plans to transfer half of this waste to Croatia, where it will be stored at the Radioactive Waste Management Centre at Cerkezovac.

This facility will also receive radioactive waste, including disused sealed radioactive sources from medicine, industry, agriculture, research and education in Croatia. These are currently being kept at the locations where they were used. Waste which will be stored at the planned Radioactive Waste Management Centre at Cerkezovac will later be disposed of at facilities which are to be developed in Croatia. The review took into account the findings from previous IAEA Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) missions in 2015 and 2019.

“Croatia has several of the necessary elements in place for a national programme for managing radioactive waste including stable financing arrangements,” said ARTEMIS team leader, Amélie de Hoyos, Safety of Radioactive Waste Disposal Engineer at the French Institute for Radiological Protection & Nuclear Safety (IRSN). “Our review identifies areas for improvement, but notes that the Croatian counterpart is committed to addressing challenges associated with managing waste arising within the country, as well as managing the nation’s share of operational and decommissioning waste from the Krško NPP. Croatia’s efforts are currently focused on the predisposal management of the waste.” Anna Clark, Section Head for Waste and Environmental Safety at the IAEA expressed confidence that the findings from the ARTEMIS review will provide a sound basis for further improvements.

The ARTEMIS review team made several recommendations including:

  • Providing clarity and consistency on the roles of the relevant organisations, on planning assumptions and on programme milestones to facilitate communication and decision making.
  • Providing arrangements for the safe and secure centralised storage of institutional waste in Croatia.
  • Developing guidance stating regulatory expectations for safety assessments to support authorisation of radioactive waste storage and disposal facilities.
  • Addressing the human resource needs of the regulatory body and the Fund.

Josip Lebegner, Director of The Fund said Discussions with ARTEMIS and the subsequent suggestions and recommendations “represent key elements which will definitely help us in further improving our waste management framework, planning and implementation”. Zdravka Tecic, Head of Sector for Radiological & Nuclear Safety of the Civil Protection Directorate at the Ministry of the Interior, said: “We are very grateful to receive this independent review, which will support our work in ensuring the safety of the radioactive waste.” The final report will be provided to the Government of Croatia in two months.

Image: The Artemis mission team (courtesy of Croatian Fund for Financing the Decommissioning of the Krško NPP)

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