Supervision of the management of radwaste

Radioactive waste (radwaste) is waste that contains radioactive material and has no other use. Radioactive waste is usually a by-product of nuclear energy production and other uses of nuclear fission or nuclear technologies, for example in research or medicine. Radioactive waste is hazardous to most forms of life and the environment and is regulated by government institutions to protect human health and the environment.

Production of radioactive waste

Radioactive waste is generated by:

  • the production of electricity from nuclear fuel
  • activities related to the production of electricity from nuclear fuel
  • decommissioning of a nuclear installation

The Atomic Act defines radwaste as any unusable materials in gaseous, liquid or solid form which, due to the content of radionuclides in them or because of their level of contamination with radionuclides, cannot be introduced into the environment. A special group of radwaste is radwaste, which is generated by the use of sources of ionising radiation in industry, health and research – so-called institutional radioactive waste (IRAO).

The quantity and activity of the produced radwaste must be kept to the lowest reasonably achievable level by its originator, according to the applicable legislation by technical and organizational measures. The program of minimizing the formation of radwaste, which is regularly evaluated, is part of the documentation of the quality of each nuclear installation. The year-on-year trend of radwaste formation has a long-term declining nature.

In terms of protecting human health and protecting the environment, radwaste is given adequate attention through the requirements of the system of handling it.

Radioactive Waste Management

Requirements related to the management of radwaste are defined in the Atomic Act and in the Decree of the UJD SR No. 30/2012 Coll. The term Radwaste Management means an integrated system involving the collection, sorting, storage, treatment, conditioning, handling and storage of radwaste from the NIs, treatment and storage of IRAO.

Council Directive 2011/70/EURATOM of 19 July 2011 establishing a Community framework for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste, as transposed by the amendment to Atomic Act No 143/2013 Coll., with effect from 1 August 2013, has been adopted at European level.

The UJD SR performs state supervision of nuclear safety at all stages of the management of radwaste from NIs and also in the final stages of IRAO management.

The current strategy for the management of radwaste in the Slovak Republic is based on the following steps:

  • Conditioning of radwaste into a form suitable for storage or long-term storage
  • Disposal of very low-level and low-active radwaste in surface disposal facility and long-term storage of radwaste unacceptable to surface disposal facility
  • Research and Development of a deep geological repository for disposal of radwaste unacceptable in surface disposal facility.

This strategy is in line with the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management (Notice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic No. 125/2002 Coll.), which was ratified by the Slovak Republic as one of the first member countries of the IAEA, at the end of September 1998, and is the basis of the regularly prepared and submitted National Report of the Slovak Republic on the safety of spent nuclear fuel management and radwaste management.

All activities in the management of radwaste must be directed towards its safe disposal. In specialized facilities, radwaste is treated and conditioned in a form suitable for its storage or permanent disposal. Radioactive waste is treated by combustion, high pressure compacting, fixation into cement, glass, bituminous, paraffin and geopolymer matrix.

Disposal of radioactive waste

The final step in the process of radwaste management is its disposal, which is defined in the Atomic Act as a permanent placement of radioactive waste or of spent nuclear fuel into a radioactive waste repository or spent nuclear fuel repository without the intention of retrieval. The basic requirement for the repository is to provide such containment and isolation of radioactive waste during the operation and after the closure of repository that would not cause radiation exposure higher than the values laid down by the applicable legal regulations.

Safe disposal is achieved by containment and isolation of  radwaste from the environment using multiple engineering and natural barriers. For near surface disposal of radwaste, the National Repository of Radwaste (RU RAO) in Mochovce is in operation in Slovakia, which obtained authorisation for operation in November 2001. In 2011, the RU RAO received an authorisation from the UJD SR to operate the NI, which is already without a time limit of validity in accordance with the amendment to Act No. 143/2013 Coll.

For radioactive waste which cannot be disposed of in the near surface type of disposal facility, alternatives are currently being considered, one of which is the construction of a deep geological repository in Slovakia and another is the export of spent nuclear fuel for disposal abroad. The Slovak Republic is also involved in developing the idea of building an interregional deep geological repository of radwaste.

Updated: 05.09.2022