Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management
Adopted: 5 September 1997
Opened for Signature: 29 September 1997
Entered into Force: 18 June 2001
Depositary: Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
The Joint Convention was adopted on 5 September 1997 at a Diplomatic Conference convened by the IAEA at its headquarters from 1-5 September 1997. It was opened for signature at the IAEA General Conference on 29 September 1997. Pursuant to Article 40, the Joint Convention entered into force 90 days after the date of deposit with the IAEA of the 25th instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval, including the instruments of 15 States possessing operational nuclear power plants.
Convention Provisions: 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 also considerably elaborates on and expands the existing IAEA nuclear safety regime and promotes international standards in this area. The Convention is aimed at 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.
The Convention covers the safety of spent fuel and radioactive waste management from civilian applications. It also applies to the management of military or defense-originated spent fuel and radioactive waste if and when such materials are transferred permanently to and managed within exclusively civilian programs.
The Convention calls on the contracting parties to review safety requirements and conduct environmental assessments both at existing and proposed spent fuel and radioactive waste management facilities. It provides for the establishment and maintenance of a legislative and regulatory framework to govern the safety of spent fuel and radioactive waste management.
The Convention establishes rules and conditions for the transboundary movement of spent fuel and radioactive waste that inter alia require a State of destination to have adequate administrative and technical capacity and regulatory structure to manage spent fuel or radioactive waste in a manner consistent with the Convention. It obligates a State of origin to take appropriate steps to permit re-entry into its territory of such material if a trans-boundary movement cannot be completed in conformity with the Convention.
Verification and Compliance:
Verification: The Convention provides for a binding reporting system that will address the measures taken to implement obligations under the Convention, including reporting on national inventories of radioactive waste and spent fuel. Each Contracting Party shall take, within the framework of its national law, the legislative, regulatory, and administrative measures and other steps necessary for implementing its obligations under this Convention. In the event of a disagreement between two or more Contracting Parties concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention, the Contracting Parties shall consult within the framework of a meeting of the Contracting Parties with the goal of resolving the disagreement.
Compliance: In the event that the consultations prove unproductive, recourse can be made to the mediation, conciliation, and arbitration mechanisms provided for in international law, including the rules and practices prevailing within the IAEA.
Reservations: Upon signature, Denmark stated that the Convention shall not apply to Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
Preparatory Meeting of Contracting Parties: Article 29 of the Convention requires that a Preparatory Meeting of contracting parties shall be held not later than six months after the date of entry into force of the Convention. The Preparatory Meeting was held from 10-14 December 2001. At the Preparatory Meeting, contracting parties fixed the date of the first Review Meeting (3-14 November 2003), the date of the associated Organizational Meeting (7-11 April 2003), and the deadline for submission of National Reports (5 May 2003). The meeting also adopted the Rules of Procedure and Financial Rules, and established guidelines on the form and structure of national reports, and on the process for reviewing the reports.
2012: The fourth Review Meeting of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management was held in Vienna from 14-23 May. Fifty-four contracting parties participated in the Review Meeting, eight for the first time, while nine countries did not and six failed to submit a National Report. Many contracting parties focused their oral reports on lessons learned from the Fukushima accident, as requested by the President. In the final report they noted the effectiveness of international peer review missions in improving regulatory infrastructure and safety. Contracting parties demonstrated good practices in “public engagement, management of sealed sources and sharing of information with neighboring countries”. Remaining challenges included “ensuring the robustness of the review process, spent fuel capacity storage, and delivery of disposal options”. The Meeting noted that while many contracting parties had widespread experience with and significant numbers of near surface disposal facilities, geological depositories for spent fuel and high level waste were lacking.
The contracting parties agreed that National Reports for the next Review Meeting should include:
- Management of disused sealed sources
- Safety implications of very long storage periods and delayed disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste
- International cooperation in finding solutions for the long term management and disposal of different types of radioactive waste and/or spent fuel
- Progress on lessons learned from the Fukushima accident, in particular strategies for spent fuel management
The Open Ended Working Group suggestions included establishing topical meetings to be held between Review Meetings and a meeting between the Joint Convention and the Convention on Nuclear Safety to improve coherence between the rules governing review processes.
2011: In March, the Joint Convention released a newsletter outlining the organization’s upcoming events, as well as several other issues, including Canada’s Ontario Power Generation’s proposal to create a Deep Geological Repository for low and intermediate-level radioactive waste.
An Organizational Meeting in preparation for the fourth Review Meeting of the Joint Convention was held in Vienna from 10-11 May. Following the meeting, Mr. Chang Sun Kang of Korea was elected President for the fourth Review Meeting, which will be held from 14 to 23 May 2012.
From 31 May to 4 June the IAEA held a conference on the management of spent fuel from nuclear reactors. The President noted that spent fuel seems to be generally managed safely but that standards must be continuously reviewed to reflect changes. He also stressed that public support for nuclear projects requires trust, which is achieved through transparency.
In September the Joint Convention released a newsletter detailing its agenda, organization, and goals for the upcoming fourth Review Meeting. Its goals included regulatory body independence, recruitment and education, increasing funding to projects and to develop geological repositories for high-level waste. The newsletter also detailed progress in waste management in the United States and United Kingdom.
2010: From 7-9 June in Paris, France, the Joint Convention held a Joint Technical Meeting on the Establishment of a Radioactive Waste Management Organization. 35 contracting parties and 15 non Contracting Parties were present for the meetings. Member States shared experiences with running or establishing radioactive waste management organizations. In particular, it focused on several factors for establishing a successful waste management program:
- Reliable national legal and regulatory framework;
- Consistent and clear definitions of roles and responsibilities for both the industry and Member States, and;
- A proper link between national governments and the Joint Convention, as well as communicating with the public.
On 24 September, the Joint Convention held a General Committee Meeting in Vienna. The participants discussed ways to enhance communication and further interactions between Review Meetings.
From 27 September to 1 October, the Joint Convention held a workshop on a web-based data reporting system for assisting in compliance with the Joint Convention reporting provisions. 11 Asian countries and Australia participated in the demonstration of the Net-Enabled Waste Management Data Base (NEWMDB).
From 11-15 October in Lisbon, Portugal, the Joint Convention held a workshop on Sustainable Management of Disused Sealed Radioactive Sources." The activity was held in conjunction with the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources. Over 40 countries participated in the workshop and concluded safety, security, and technology were paramount to establishing effective regulatory control of radioactive sources.
2009: The third Review Meeting of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management was held in Vienna from 11-20 May. Forty-five contracting parties participated in the Review Meeting; three (Kyrgyzstan, Uruguay, and Uzbekistan) did not. In their final report, participants noted with approval the "moderate increase in number of Contracting Parties" and "suggested that efforts should be increased to accelerate this trend in the future." In particular, with more countries "considering launching a national nuclear power programme," the Meeting "strongly recommends that the safety of spent fuel and radioactive waste management be taken into account from the very beginning of such considerations." The parties also highlighted the following challenges towards which more work needed to be done to address them:
"(1) The implementation of national policies for the long-term management of spent fuel, including disposal of high level waste and/or spent fuel;
(2) Siting, construction and operation of spent fuel and radioactive waste disposal facilities;
(3) Management of legacy wastes;
(4) Monitoring of disused sealed sources and recovery of orphan sources;
(5) Knowledge management and human resources; and
(6) Financial resources for liabilities."
2006: The second Review Meeting of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management was held at IAEA headquarters in Vienna from 15-24 May. All 41 contracting parties and eight new contracting parties—Brazil, Estonia, Euratom, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Russian Federation, and Uruguay—participated in the review discussion. Parties agreed that progress had been made since the first Review Meeting, particularly in key areas including decommissioning, international cooperation, legislative and regulatory frameworks, and spent fuel and waste management. National reports demonstrated that those areas that had been identified in the previous meeting as requiring further work had been addressed satisfactorily. Parties identified the need to further enhance policies and practices in the following areas:
(1) National strategies for spent fuel and radioactive waste management;
(2) Engagement with stakeholders and the public;
(3) Control of disused seal sources.
2003: The first Review Meeting of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management was held in Vienna from 3-14 November 2003. National reports, which had been submitted well in advance of the meeting, were presented orally and formed the basis of discussion between groups of States Parties.
At the meeting, it was noted that States Parties had made improvements to the management of spent fuel or radioactive waste in the period leading up to the meeting. States Parties acknowledged that the process of preparing national reports had been beneficial since it had identified needs and deficiencies in the national arrangements for radioactive waste management. Some delegations volunteered to report on progress in their implementation at the next review meeting.
Some areas in which progress was still required were identified:
(1) All countries needed to have in place a long term strategy for managing spent fuel and radioactive waste, since only a few possessed firm plans for the final disposition of spent fuel and high level waste.
(2) Regional solutions for the management of radioactive waste needed to be explored.
(3) Plans for integrated decommissioning and waste management, containing schemes for managing all of the various different types of waste resulting from the decommissioning process needed to be put in place by countries.
The emphasis in national reports and in the discussions at the Review Meeting was on spent fuel and radioactive waste from the nuclear fuel cycle. In this regard, the increasing role that public consultation is played in relation to long term radioactive waste management was noteworthy. In several countries, the public was involved through consultation processes in decision making with regard to repository siting decisions, options for decommissioning and policies for effluent discharge.
Point of Contact:
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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright © 2011 by MIIS.
The Joint Convention is the first international instrument to focus on minimizing the effects of hazardous radiological materials and developing best practices to promote an effective nuclear safety culture.
the Nuclear Threat
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