An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission said that Greece has established a good basis to ensure and enhance the safety of radioactive waste management. The review identified areas for additional efforts, for example, improving stakeholder involvement and securing adequate human resources for the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.
The Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) was carried out at the request of the Greek Atomic Energy Commission (EEAE) and the review team concluded the eight day mission to Greece on 18 September.
Greece has no nuclear power plants and the 5 MW Greek Research Reactor-1 (GRR-1) located at the National Centre of Scientific Research "Demokritos" (NCSR "D") is currently licensed for extended shutdown.
Radioactive waste in the country stems from the past operation of the research reactor and from industrial, research and medical applications. Spent and irradiated fuel from GRR-1 was returned to the country of origin. No plans for future management of spent fuel are foreseen. Further waste will arise from the decommissioning of GRR-1 and other facilities such as cyclotrons and waste management facilities. There is no disposal facility in Greece and radioactive waste is currently stored at an interim storage facility operated by NCSR "D" and at other licensees' sites. Based on the classification of radioactive waste, Greece is considering engineered near-surface and borehole disposal facilities.
The ARTEMIS review team comprised four senior experts from Denmark, France, Portugal, and Sweden as well as three IAEA staff members. An observer from the European Commission also attended the mission. During the mission, the review team engaged in a series of exchanges with representatives of the EEAE and NCSR "D" to evaluate the Greek national policy and programme for executing the country's obligations for safe and sustainable radioactive waste management. The ARTEMIS review team considered the findings from a previous IAEA Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) in 2012 and the follow-up review in 2017. In addition, the ARTEMIS review team visited GRR-1 and the interim storage facility at the NCSR "D" site.
ARTEMIS reviews provide independent expert assessments using teams of international specialist peer reviewers convened by the IAEA. They can cover all aspects and topics related to managing radioactive waste and spent fuel, decommissioning and remediation. Reviews are based on the IAEA Safety Standards, technical guidance, and international good practices.
"Greece has developed a national programme specifying central actions for the safe management of radioactive waste, in particular for safe predisposal management" said ARTEMIS team leader David Ulfbeck, Senior Advisor of the Danish Health Authority. "Implementation of planned actions in the National Programme will require extensive efforts, but we are confident that Greece is in a good position to undertake this task".
The ARTEMIS review team identified recommendations and suggestions to improve the management of radioactive waste in Greece, including:
"We are grateful that the review team recognized our persistent efforts and progress in building our national arrangements. We recognize that a number of challenges remain, and we are fully committed to addressing the recommendations and suggestions we received from the review team," said Christos Housiadas, Chairman of the EEAE.
"In spite of some of the challenges highlighted during the review mission I am confident that recommended improvements related to the safe management of radioactive waste will be considered and implemented," added Hildegarde Vandenhove, Director of the IAEA Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety.
The final report from the review will be provided to the Government of Greece in two months.
ARTEMIS is an integrated expert review service for radioactive waste and spent fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programmes. This service is intended for facility operators and organizations responsible for radioactive waste management, as well as for regulators, national policymakers and other decision-makers.
The IAEA Safety Standards provide a robust framework of fundamental principles, requirements, and guidance to ensure safety. They reflect an international consensus and serve as a global reference for protecting people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. IAEA documents, such as Nuclear Energy Series publications, are also included in the review basis. They include practical examples to be used by owners and operators of utilities, implementing organizations, academia, and government officials in Member States, among others.