The NEA strives to assist member countries in the development of safe, sustainable and broadly acceptable strategies for the management and disposal of high-level waste by providing objective information and facilitating global exchanges on best practices. During the past two decades, the NEA Integration Group for the Safety Case (IGSC) has made significant contributions to the work of the Agency in this field.
The IGSC was established in 2000 in response to member country needs for developing, reviewing and updating safety cases for deep geological repositories. Since then the IGSC has identified, documented and evaluated the structure and content of safety cases, as well as the methodologies used to assess safety as repository programmes have progressed. The group has also established consensus positions on good practices in the development of the safety case through continued interaction between the representatives of nuclear regulatory agencies and implementing organisations at the international level.
“The IGSC’s 20 years of successful and vital work represents a tremendous accomplishment by the international community,” noted NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV to mark the anniversary. “In its 20-year history, the IGSC has been the most important and effective international platform for developing relevant methodologies to develop and integrate scientific information and engineering approaches to underpin geological disposal. It has been at the heart of the global scientific consensus that deep geological repositories are a safe and effective approach for the disposal of high-level wastes and spent fuel.”
On the occasion of this anniversary, the NEA has published a commemorative brochure that reflects on 20 years of IGSC work and traces the evolution of the concept of the safety case overall. The brochure highlights the contribution of key IGSC activities and reports to the global progress in the management and disposal of high-level radioactive waste. It also outlines the key features and activities in the development of the safety case, including safety functions and knowledge management.
On 27 January 2021, IGSC Chair Lucy Bailey participated in a special online session organised by the European Joint Programme on Radioactive Waste Management (EURAD) to celebrate the 20 years of the IGSC. In her intervention, Bailey provided an overview of the IGSC’s key achievements from 2000 to 2020. She also highlighted the value that the IGSC brings to national programmes by providing an international platform for dialogue and for developing state-of-the-art methodologies and techniques.
“As we embark on 2021 and our next two decades, I think we are pretty confident that we have established a sound concept for the safety case that has been developed and is being adapted as programmes are moving forward. It has been a very exciting time as many programmes have moved forward from not having a site to actually being well in the way to implementing over the last 20 years.”
During her remarks, Bailey also underlined the role of the safety case as a tool for communication and stakeholder involvement. As an increasing number of geological disposal projects have begun to move from conceptual safety case studies to the licensing stages in the recent years, the IGSC has placed greater emphasis on safety case communication, particularly through its collaborations with the NEA Forum on Stakeholder Confidence (FSC). A joint IGSC / FSC workshop on “Building Confidence in the Face of Uncertainty: The Role of the Safety Case” is being planned to be organised on 12 October 2021 in Switzerland.
“While we celebrate the last 20 years, we recognise that more work remains ahead as more and more countries apply the work of the IGSC to move forward with the implementation of high-level waste disposal facilities,” Director-General Magwood said. “The NEA will continue to support its member countries in the development of the safety case for various disposal facilities and to further optimise the regulatory, environmental, societal and economic aspects of radioactive waste management and disposal.”