Guaranteeing the safety of a geological radioactive waste repository during its operating period demands expertise and adequate regulatory measures, and IRSN is conducting research from this perspective. As evidenced by a recent meeting of experts from around the world organized by the IAEA, advances in these two areas will play a crucial role in the international harmonization of safety practices at radioactive waste repositories.
Although much work has been devoted to the long-term safety of a geological radioactive waste repository, its safety during the operating period (all of the phases that precede the permanent closure of a disposal facility) has largely been overlooked. And yet repository operations have specific aspects – such as the compounded radiological risks caused by simultaneous excavation and disposal activities and the risks related to underground operations – that can result in safety requirements which are quite different from those of a nuclear reactor or fuel cycle plant.
IRSN is therefore moving ahead based on the results of its EXREV research project, which developed skills and proposed a first doctrine on the operational safety of geological disposal, by combining and analyzing the entire range of requirements. The findings of the EXREV project will form the basis of IAEA’s GEOSAF II project for intercomparison and harmonization of international safety practices in this particular area.
The discussion between experts during the IAEA meeting last March focused largely on work conducted by IRSN under its EXREV project, which will continue to occupy a central place in future work of the GEOSAF II project.