UN nuclear chief encourages ‘cradle-to-grave’ plans for managing spent fuel and radioactive waste

Inspectors from the IAEA and Euratom look into the spent fuel pond at the Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant, Czech Republic, in November 2012. Photo: IAEA/Petr Pavlicek

15 June 2015 – Projecting that the use of nuclear power will continue to grow in the coming decades, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today urged countries with nuclear energy programmes to share their spent fuel and radioactive waste management know-how with less-experienced countries.

“The volume of spent fuel will also continue to grow and it is essential that it is managed safely,” IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano told participants at the International Conference on Management of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors, which is under way through 19 June at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

The conference is aimed to highlight the importance of an integrated long-term approach to the management of spent fuel from power reactors and is held every three to five years with participants from the nuclear community, including policymakers and representatives of governmental organizations, regulatory bodies, industry, and spent fuel and waste management organizations.

Mr. Amano noted “good progress” has been made in the management of high-level radioactive waste and spent fuel, “especially in Finland, Sweden and France.”

“It will still be some years before the first deep geological repositories for nuclear spent fuel become operational,” he said. “But the progress being made in this area deserves to be better known.”

Saying that the IAEA provides extensive support to countries which are considering, or embarking upon, nuclear power programmes, Mr. Amano noted that in his meetings with leaders from these newcomer countries, he emphasizes “the vital importance” of having “cradle-to-grave” plans in place for both spent fuel and radioactive waste.

“I strongly encourage countries with existing nuclear power programmes, and experience of the back end of the fuel cycle, to share their experience with newcomer countries to ensure that best practice is implemented everywhere,” he said.

Looking ahead, he said that “last September, we devoted our annual Scientific Forum to the subject of Radioactive Waste Management. We are organizing an international conference on the same subject in 2016.”

Supporting the safe management of spent fuel, and of radioactive waste, is a key IAEA activity.


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