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A classification system for solid radioactive wastes

The European Commission has recently published a classification system for solid radioactive waste. The primary aim of the classification system is to improve communication and assist better management of information concerning radioactive waste, although there are of course m...
The European Commission has recently published a classification system for solid radioactive waste. The primary aim of the classification system is to improve communication and assist better management of information concerning radioactive waste, although there are of course more complex issues involved, which the Commission details to some extent in annex to its recommendation. Essentially though, it argues that a good descriptive tool should enable holders of radioactive waste to describe the nature of their waste stock to politicians and the public in standard and easily understood terms.

The Commission is obliged to provide the Council periodically with an analysis of the situation and prospects for radioactive waste management in the European Community, since a Council resolution on the matter was adopted in 1992. This legislation requests in particular that the Commission pay special attention to safety and environmental requirements as well as the needs of nuclear programmes and activities involving radioisotopes.

It therefore recommends that the Member States and the nuclear industry adopt the common classification system, which should be used to provide information to the public, to national and international institutions and to non-governmental organisations. It would not, however, replace technical criteria where required for specific safety considerations (such as licensing of facilities).

Under the proposed classification system there would be three categories of solid radioactive waste:

- Transition radioactive waste:
- - This would be mainly medical in origin, and the type that would decay during temporary storage and then be suitable for management outside of the regulatory control system (subject to compliance and clearing levels);

- Low and intermediate level waste:
- - According to this classification system, in low and intermediate level waste the concentration of radionuclides is such that the amount of radiation given off during its disposal is 'sufficiently low'. Acceptable levels for the emission of 'thermal power' will be determined for individual sites, following safety assessments. Low and intermediate level waste will be further categorised as either short-lived or long-lived waste.

- High level waste:
- - This will include waste with such a concentration of radionuclides that generation of thermal power shall be considered during its storage and disposal

The Commission proposes that this system should be used by Member States up to 1 January 2002, when the criteria will be reassessed.

Source: Official Journal of the European Communities
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