This week the International Atomic Energy Agency held a workshop on the safety and licensing of radioactive waste disposal in Cape Town. More than 90 international experts participated in the one-day event, which looked towards the harmonization of international safety standards for radioactive waste disposal.

Although the technical solutions for waste disposal exist, what is missing is a uniform, international approach to this issue at a normative level. In particular, as a number of countries are moving towards the licensing of geological disposal facilities, the potential benefit of having an internationally harmonized approach to the safety demonstration and licensing process is clearly emerging.

Didier Louvat, who heads the IAEA’s Waste and Environmental Safety Section explained the purpose of the workshop, which followed the development of a revised and consolidated international Safety Requirements standard for radioactive waste disposal compiled by the IAEA.

“With this workshop we intended to create awareness of the developments taking place in the international safety standards for radioactive waste disposal, and the work aimed at the harmonization of the of approaches to demonstrating the safety of geological disposal.”

“We also wanted to identify the related implications for the licensing process.”

Participants had the opportunity to hear the fact that geological disposal is a doable solution, although one that requires considerable effort on the part of operators developing safety arguments and evidence, and the regulatory authority who have to evaluate them. The workshop also explored the benefits of cooperating with the mining industry for information exchange on the issue of conventional mining safety in respect of geological disposal facilities in particular, and radioactive waste disposal in general.

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