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U.S. Leads Fifth International Review Meeting on the Safety of Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Management at the IAEA

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - Today, representatives of the nations, or Contracting Parties, who are signatories to the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management (Joint Convention), began the Fifth Review Meeting of the Contracting Parties. The Joint Convention is the first international instrument that deals with the safety of management and storage of radioactive waste and spent fuel in countries with and without nuclear programs. It elaborates and expands the existing International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear safety regime and promotes international standards in this area.

More than 700 delegates from 69 Contracting Parties to the Joint Convention are expected to take part in this meeting hosted at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria from May 11 to 22, 2015. The meeting will discuss each nation’s progress in achieving and maintaining a high level of safety in spent fuel and radioactive waste management, ensuring that there are effective defenses against potential hazards during all stages of management of such materials, and preventing accidents with radiological consequences.

Dave Huizenga, the Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for the U.S. Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation Program, is the President of the review meeting. “As nations continue to consider the application of nuclear technology to diversify their energy sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we cannot minimize the importance of management of spent fuel and radioactive waste," Huizenga said at the opening of the meeting. “I challenge you to fully consider your global responsibilities to safely manage spent fuel and radioactive waste, protecting current and future generations and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.” 

In his opening remarks, Denis Flory, IAEA's Deputy Director General for Nuclear Safety and Security, said, “Therefore let me congratulate everyone for your commitment in this review meeting of the Joint Convention, which will benefit all Contracting Parties and contribute to further enhance safety worldwide.”

The U.S. report will be presented by Monica Regalbuto, Associate Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (EM) at the U.S. Department of Energy, and Scott Moore, Deputy Director of the National Regulatory Commission's Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards.

Review Discussion Aims to Strengthen Safety Measures

A special topical session is part of the review meeting agenda, which will focus on the progress and lessons learned from the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in respect to the safety of spent fuel and radioactive waste management. It will also feature presentations from international experts and the Japanese delegation as well as a discussion panel. 

There will also by a special presentation by Frank Marcinowski, EM’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Waste Management, on the events that led to a radiological release from an underground repository known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in February 2014. Marcinowski will provide an overview of the results of the accident investigations, lessons learned, and current status of the recovery efforts.

The peer review process provides Contracting Parties the opportunity to evaluate and discuss in detail safety measures taken to implement the Joint Convention as well as identify any emerging issues. 

At the Joint Convention’s previous review meeting in 2012, the Contracting Parties agreed that national reports for the upcoming review meeting should also include discussions on issues such as the management of sealed sources; the safety implications of extended storage periods and the delayed disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste; and international cooperation to find effective solutions for the long-term management and disposal of different types of radioactive waste and spent fuel.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.

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