Nuclear Power

01 Jun 2023

IAEA Commends Portugal’s Commitment to Safe Radwaste Management

01 Jun 2023  by   

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste & Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning & Remediation (ARTEMIS) team says Portugal is committed to ensuring the safe and effective management of radioactive waste. The mission also noted a need to further develop the national radioactive waste management programme and advised allocating adequate resources for its long-term implementation, particularly disposal. The nine-day mission was carried out at the request of Portugal and hosted by the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA).

Portugal has no NPPs but generates low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste from the use of radiation sources in medical and industrial applications, in science and research and from decommissioning facilities and laboratories. Portugal has one research reactor that is in permanent shutdown. Past and present non-nuclear industrial activities have also generated significant amounts of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM).

The team comprised four experts from Belgium, Italy, Lithuania, and the UK as well as three IAEA staff members. They met with senior management and staff from APA, the General Inspection for Agriculture, Sea, Environment & Spatial Planning (IGAMAOT), the Portuguese Authority for Working Conditions (ACT), the Economic & Food Safety Authority (ASAE) and the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST). The mission also included an observer from European Commission (EC), which also aims to support Portugal in meeting European Union obligations. These require an independent review of national frameworks and programmes for managing radioactive waste and used fuel.

The ARTEMIS team took into account findings from a February 2022 Integrated Regulatory Review Service, which assessed Portugal’s overall nuclear regulatory framework. Together, the two reviews comprehensively evaluated Portugal’s legal and governmental framework and regulatory infrastructure for nuclear safety and waste management.

The team found that Portugal demonstrated commitment and ability to enhance the safety of radioactive waste management. The team recognised Portugal’s dedication to further develop a comprehensive national policy and strategy for ensuring the safety of long-term radioactive waste management. It said the government had improved the regulatory framework by establishing a new independent regulatory body. “Portugal has most of the elements in place for the national programme for managing radioactive waste, in particular for safe predisposal management”, said ARTEMIS team leader Christophe Depaus from the National Agency for Radioactive Waste & Enriched Fissile Material in Belgium. “Our review highlights the strengths of the Portuguese programme and identifies areas for improvement.”

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

Further developing a comprehensive national policy that sets out the preferred options for radioactive waste management.

Updating the national radioactive waste inventory to include anticipated wastes associated with decommissioning and NORM.

Updating financial liability estimates for all aspects of radioactive waste management to ensure that long-term budgets include sufficient provisions, particularly for disposal.

“The findings of this mission give us sustenance to continue and enhance our work and support us in drafting sound policies and strategies for the safe management of radioactive waste to maintain a high level of safety for the public and the environment,” said Nuno Lacasta, President of the Management Board of APA.

The final mission report will be provided to the Government in two months.

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