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SITEX-II Report Summary

Project ID: 662152

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SITEX-II (Sustainable network for Independent Technical EXpertise of radioactive waste disposal - Interactions and Implementation)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2016-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The European Council Directive 2011/70/EURATOM establishes a Community framework for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste. This Directive states that it is broadly accepted at the technical level that, at this time, deep geological disposal represents the safest and most sustainable option as the end point of the management of high-level waste and spent fuel considered as waste.
In line with this Directive and in consistency with international high level safety standards, waste management organisations (WMOs) are developing safety cases for presenting the technical and organisational arguments that support the development of the national geological repositories. As safety cases develop, the safety case expertise by regulatory bodies in the framework of the decision making processes develops as well. Organisations in charge of reviewing the safety cases must notably evaluate whether the safety elements, in particular those supported by scientific and technological results, are fulfilling the regulatory requirements and sufficiently convincing for proceeding with the decision making process.
In this context, there is a need for developing and coordinating, at the international level, joint and harmonized activities related to the Expertise Function, which proceeds in the regulatory review of deep geological disposal programs. The Coordination and Support Action SITEX-II (2015-2017) aims to address this need by developing a Sustainable Independent Expertise Function Network in the field of geological disposal safety. SITEX-II brings together representatives from 18 organisations including mainly regulatory authorities, technical support organisations, research entities and Civil Society (CS) organisations. It is devoted to the practical implementation of the activities defined by the former SITEX project (2012-2013):
– Programing R&D: the objective within SITEX-II is to further defining the Expertise Function’s R&D program necessary to ensure independent scientific and technical capabilities for reviewing a safety case for geological disposal,
– Developing a joint review framework: the key objective is to further develop a common understanding of the interpretation and proper implementation of safety requirements in the safety case,
– Training and tutoring for reviewing the safety case: SITEX-II aims to provide a practical demonstration of training services that may be provided by the foreseen SITEX network,
– Interacting with CS: the objective within SITEX-II is the development by institutional experts and CS organisation representatives of the conditions and means for interactions within the framework of the SITEX network, in view of mutual understanding, transparency and improvement of the decision-making process.
In addition, SITEX-II tasks include the dissemination of results achieved within the project so as to allow possible considerations from outside the project in the process of developing the SITEX network. An Action Plan will be issued to set out the content and practical modalities of this future network.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

During this first period, a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) of the Expertise Function was developed. Globally, a list of possible topics of common interest was issued based on the former SITEX project and inputs from SITEX-II partners. These topics were ranked by the involved partners with regard to their level of interest and priority. The overall outcomes were collectively discussed to consolidate the SRA. During the whole process, exchanges with CS representatives were organized in order to consider their concerns about the content of this SRA. In addition, conditions for implementing a Joint Programing with other actors (WMOs, research entities) were identified and on this basis, all the SITEX-II SRA topics were acknowledged to be eligible for such a Joint Programing.
Further, SITEX-II partners shared national experience and prospective views on the interpretation and implementation of safety requirements on optimization of protection and on waste acceptance criteria, which will be documented in positions papers. The first structuring steps of developing guidance on reviewing a safety case were carried out: applicable references were gathered, relevant information was summarized and an operative articulation was set out. This was completed with the conception of an excel tool to develop and consult grids for reviewing safety cases at successive phases of a geological repository lifecycle.
Besides, an overview of existing training and tutoring practices used by SITEX-II partners located in Europe and Canada was issued, as well as recommendations for competence building of technical experts (safety case reviewers). On this basis, a training module at a generalist level with emphasis on the technical review of the safety case is being developed, including a pilot training session to be implemented within SITEX-II in June 2017. The syllabus was agreed, together with guidelines for the planning, implementation and evaluation of the pilot session material and training module content.
Interactions between institutional experts and representatives of CS within SITEX-II took place on 3 thematic tasks, namely R&D (see above), safety culture/review and governance, internally as well as externally through workshops with other CS organisations. The main communalities and differences in the vision of safety culture were investigated as well as the expectations regarding the engagement of CS in the safety case review, leading to conclusions on the conditions and means to involve CS along such a review process. An innovative multi-stakeholders approach of interactions was developed, entitled Pathway Evaluation Process (PEP), presented as a serious game and conceptualized as an exercise of participative and comparative assessment of different parallel alternative scenarios on long-term management of radioactive waste.
SITEX-II work was presented at events organized by international institutions and platforms (IAEA, NEA/OECD, ETSON, IGD-TP...), as well as at national levels. At last, the Action Plan preparation for the future SITEX network has been started.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The SRA, the technical review guidelines and training module specific to the review of safety cases for geological disposal, as well as the concepts developed by the constructive dialogue established between institutional and non-institutional (CS) organisations, are new pillars that will serve sharing the Expertise Function at the European level. Thus they will support the review of the upcoming license application for geological repositories and foster the links between so called “less advanced” and “more advanced” geological disposal programs. The SRA in particular has already been an input to the H2020 JOPRAD project devoted to assessing the potential for a Joint Programing that would structure the future European research in radioactive waste management. Additional tasks will complete SITEX-II outputs, notably with Terms of Reference for SRA topics, position papers on other key safety concepts and the pilot training session. Further dissemination actions will also be carried out. The Action Plan for the SITEX network will be issued to set out its governance and activities. Besides, the interaction tools already built with the CS organisations would worth being enlarged to stakeholders outside SITEX or in educational perspectives.

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