Joint IAEA-ICTP Virtual School Highlights Global Interest in Cementing Radioactive Waste

Sixty participants from 30 countries shared their knowledge on cementation in radioactive waste packaging at a recent IAEA event, highlighting the high level of global interest in handling radioactive waste inventories.

The ICTP-IAEA Joint International School on Cementation of Radioactive Waste, jointly organized by the IAEA and the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), based in Trieste, Italy, was the first of its kind on this topic. Held virtually from October 15 to November 25, the school featured lively debates on a variety of topics, including cement chemistry, the latest theoretical and experimental advances, and technological approaches to waste cementation.

“The management of radioactive waste is essential for the sustainability of nuclear energy and the use of proven methods to implement long-term solutions for this waste, including the use of cementation, is absolutely crucial”, said Mikhail Chudakov, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy. “The successful implementation of this technique requires dynamic thinking as well as a deep knowledge of a wide range of chemical processes, and I am greatly encouraged to see such a level of interest in this topic, as evidenced by the number high number of participants. “

Cementation consists of mixing radioactive waste in a specialized cement formulated to immobilize the radionuclides and limit their release during storage. It is a well-established and proven process for preparing radioactive waste for disposal and final disposal. The technique is already in use by many countries and is suitable for use with a wide range of waste types. All the beneficial uses of radioactive materials – in medicine, science and power generation – result in small amounts of radioactive waste. Countries take their responsibilities for its management seriously. Proven and readily available techniques, such as cementation, offer countries the option of conditioning their wastes for storage and disposal. Many types of low and intermediate level radioactive waste are suitable for cementation, such as liquid wastes from effluent treatment facilities and wastes resulting from decommissioning activities.

The school was conducted entirely online and saw an approximately four-fold increase in the number of active participants compared to previous editions, including professional women who made up over a third of the participants. While the school normally takes place in person for five days at ICTP headquarters, the virtual format allowed it to be held over a period of six weeks. This not only allowed for more topics to be covered in more depth, but it also allowed more people to participate. In addition, after the first two weeks of classes, the organizers carefully analyzed the students’ questions and prepared new classes to answer the questions and spark new discussions.

“I found the presentations referring to real-world applications particularly useful,” said Valentina D’Andrea, discipline manager of chemicals and process specialist at Sogin, the Italian public company responsible for decommissioning and disposal. radioactive waste management. “It was a great opportunity to compare different approaches with other specialists and learn from each other. “

Speakers from Austria, Egypt, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States of America presented a range of cementation topics ranging from chemical durability and long term performance to retention of radionuclides in cement-based materials. Participants and speakers exchanged ideas and clarified details, using an interactive ‘chat’ and through specific lectures. The students also had the chance to present their own case studies to the group.

“I learned a lot from the presentations and enjoyed the opportunity to ask questions and, more importantly, get answers,” said Dalia Grigaliuniene from the Nuclear Engineering Laboratory of the Lithuanian Institute of Technology. ‘energy. “Incorporating participants’ questions into the second round of presentations was difficult but very helpful. Participants were also able to submit additional questions during the second round which they responded to via email, she added.

“When we decided to run this online school we didn’t know what to expect and I was delighted with the passion for learning shown by the students and the high quality material provided by the lecturers,” said Willie. Meyer, Scientific Director of the IAEA. School secretary. “We have paid a lot of attention to ensuring that knowledge is effectively transferred and creating a strong momentum, it all seems to have been effective. “

In addition to interactive schools, the IAEA supports Member States in radioactive waste management through initiatives including publications, professional networks (including IPN, LABONET, DSRSNet, DISPONET and URF), coordinated research projects, training events, ARTEMIS peer review missions as well as awareness materials (such as animations and films) and advice on communication approaches, through the Nuclear Communicators Toolkit. The recently launched Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Information System (SRIS) provides an overview of radioactive waste inventories around the world as well as information on activities and management approaches. Interested countries are invited to nominate their national coordinators, to learn more about SRIS.

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Perry A. Thomasson