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Sustainable network for Independent Technical EXpertise of radioactive waste disposal - Interactions and Implementation

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SITEX-II (Sustainable network for Independent Technical EXpertise of radioactive waste disposal - Interactions and Implementation)

Reporting period: 2016-12-01 to 2017-11-30

The European Council Directive 2011/70/EURATOM of 19 July 2011 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 are developing safety cases for presenting the technical and organisational arguments that support the development of the national geological repository. As safety case develops, the safety case expertise by regulatory bodies in the framework of the decision making process develops as well. Organisations in charge of reviewing the safety case must in particular evaluate whether the safety elements, in particular those supported by scientific and technological results, are sufficiently convincing to be accepted by the regulatory authority as a basis 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) aim to address this need by developing a Sustainable Independent Expertise Function Network in the field of deep geological disposal safety. SITEX-II brings together representatives from eighteen organisations including mainly regulatory authorities, technical support organisations, research organisations and Civil Society (CS) organisations. It is devoted to the practical implementation of the activities defined by the former SITEX project (EURATOM FP7, 2012–2013):
– Programming R&D: the general objective within SITEX-II is to further defining the Expertise Function’s R&D programme 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 general objective within SITEX-II is the development by institutional experts and CS organisations representatives of the conditions and means for interactions within the framework of the foreseen SITEX network, in view of mutual understanding and transparency 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 future SITEX network, and the issuing of an Action Plan to set out the content and practical modalities of this future network.
- Programming R&D: the SRA of the Expertise Function was developed by SITEX-II partners during the first reporting period. Seven “Main topics” were identified. During this second period, SITEX-II has developed first Terms of Reference for its SRA implementation, considering three options for each topic: i) deploy activities through the first wave of European Joint Programing (EJP) in the field of radioactive waste management (RWM), ii) develop these activities through a future SITEX network or iii) consider the results of on-going European projects before deciding to start new activities.
- Developing a joint review Framework: the positions papers on optimization of protection and on waste acceptance criteria were finalized. SITEX-II partners shared national experience and prospective views on site characterization and on operational issues with regard to post-closure safety, so as to develop positions papers on these topics. Besides, partners continued developing guidance on reviewing a safety case, notably through the conception of grids for addressing the successive phases of a geological repository lifecycle.
- Training and tutoring: the development of a training module on the technical review of safety case, started during the first reporting period on the basis of an overview of existing training and tutoring practices used by SITEX-II partners, was completed and a pilot training session was implemented in June 2017 in Kaunas, Lithuania, with 18 trainees from different SITEX related countries. The feedback provided by trainees and lecturers was thoroughly analyzed. This experience forms a valuable basis for further developing the training and tutoring services to be provided by a future SITEX network.
- Interactions with CS: the three thematic tasks, namely R&D, safety culture/review and intergenerational governance, were achieved, notably on the basis of works carried out by institutional experts and representatives of CS within SITEX-II, of interviews of various representatives of non-institutional (NGOs) and institutional actors (regulators, TSOs, researchers) as well as through three workshops with other CS organisations organized during the first reporting period. Regarding R&D, a concept of CS knowledge interaction in international research projects on RWM was developed that could be relevant in the EJP, as well as the early stages of a citizen and social science platform in RWM. Regarding intergenerational governance of geological disposal, recommendations emerge from a literature review and results of the third CS Workshop.
Finally, results of SITEX-II work were presented at national levels as well as at several events organized by international institutions and platforms (IAEA, NEA/OECD, ETSON, Eurosafe...) and an « International meeting on SITEX-II outcomes” was organized by SITEX-II on 31st October 2017 in France. At last, the Action Plan preparation for a future SITEX network was achieved.
Progress has been made in harmonizing both the regulatory and reviewing activities among SITEX-II partners through the position papers and the review grid. The preparation of the pilot training session was also an opportunity for such harmonization. Yet, the interaction tools built with the CS organisations would worth being enlarged to stakeholders outside SITEX or in educational perspectives. The SRA, the technical guidelines and training module on the review of safety cases for geological disposal, as well as the concepts developed by the constructive dialogue between institutional and non-institutional organisations, are new pillars that will serve sharing the Expertise Function at the European level. They will support the review of the upcoming license applications for geological repositories and foster the links between so called “less advanced” and “more advanced” programs.
The identification of TSO priorities during the EJP preparation (through the H2020 JOPRAD project) was strongly facilitated by the SITEX-II project. At present, SITEX is acknowledged as an efficient network, besides the IGD-TP and the Research Entities, in the ongoing preparation of the EJP, and looks forward to sharing within the EJP its experience and developed materials, notably regarding training and knowledge transfer.
SITEX-II Pilot Training-June 2017-Participants at lectures
SITEX-II Pilot Training-June 2017-Working in groups (practical exercises)