Paris, 17 September 2014


Radioactive waste management and "constructing memory" for future generations

The nearly 200 participants at the International Conference and Debate on the Preservation of Records, Knowledge and Memory of Radioactive Waste across Generations have agreed that future generations should be provided with knowledge and understanding of the environmental heritage they inherit from the past. The conference was held on 15‑17 September 2014 in Verdun, France by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), with the support of the French National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (ANDRA).

Participants at this multi-disciplinary conference considered not only radioactive waste management, but also other fields and disciplines such as archives, cultural heritage, industrial archaeology, policy and regulation. Opening remarks were delivered by Dr Thierry Dujardin, NEA Acting Deputy Director-General, Mr. Gérard Longuet, French Senator, former Minister and President of the Centre mondial de la Paix, des Libertés et des Droits de l'Homme, and Mr. François‑Michel Gonnot, President of ANDRA. Speakers included international experts from the NEA initiative on the Preservation of Records, Knowledge and Memory (RK&M) across Generations. Other international organisations present included the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the European Commission (EC).

During his opening remarks, Dr Dujardin stressed that giving future generations the ability to make informed decisions about their heritage is a fundamental aspect of sustainable development, and that the NEA RK&M initiative is helping break new ground in this regard. He also highlighted the benefits and added value that the inter-disciplinary approach of the RK&M initiative was bringing to the conference.

Conference participants confirmed the validity of the following guiding principles for RK&M preservation cited in the collective statement of the NEA Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC):

Background notes to editors:

The conference provided a forum for both specialists and stakeholders interested in records, knowledge and memory preservation in general, and radioactive waste management in particular, to exchange views and the latest information in the field. It was attended by close to 200 participants, representing 17 countries and 3 international organisations. Among the participants were specialists from both nuclear and non-nuclear organisations, academics and representatives from local communities.

The Preservation of Records, Knowledge and Memory (RK&M) across Generations is an important initiative of the NEA Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC) that bridges both societal and technical issues. The initiative is now in its fourth year, with Phase 1 conclusions finding that i) the context has changed greatly since the 1980s, when RK&M was thought to serve the sole function of deterring intrusion into a repository, as today the goal is to preserve information that will be used by future generations while maintaining technical and societal oversight of the repository for as long as practicable; and ii) there are a number of mechanisms outside radioactive waste management and the nuclear field that can foster RK&M preservation. They constitute a potential resource for waste management organisations and governments.

The monitoring of repositories over the long term is another aspect of interaction between society and technology. As radioactive waste disposal programmes approach the siting and operational stages, the preservation of RK&M across generations constitutes one of the pillars of confidence in safety and security, and a foundation for robust decisions by future generations once the repository is closed.

Current members of the initiative include the radioactive waste management organisations and regulators from Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The IAEA is also a participant.

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