Global progress in developing deep geological repositories

ICGR-7, Korea, 2024

Held for the first time in Asia, the Seventh International Conference on Geological Repositories (ICGR-7) brought together high-level decision makers from regulatory and local government bodies, waste management organisations and public stakeholder communities to review current perspectives on deep geological repository (DGR) development.

NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV, in opening the conference, noted the significant progress many countries have made towards implementing geological repositories for long-lived radioactive waste since the last ICGR in 2022, and in the progress made in improving stakeholder engagement in waste disposal decisions. But, he emphasised, new challenges lay ahead. ”There is considerable interest in Generation IV, SMRs,” he noted. “Whatever their design, these innovative technologies will have an impact on the back-end of the fuel cycle and their wastes will eventually need to go into DGRs. It is essential that we give full consideration to the management of these new wastes now — while we are in the design phase.”

He further noted the importance of NEA’s new effort known as Waste Integration for Small and Advanced Reactor Designs (WISARD) to explore the back-end implications of new reactors technologies.

Photo: Krystal Kenney 

NEA Director-General Magwood highlighted the importance addressing the back-end aspects of new reactor technologies as early as possible.

Over the course of five days seven sessions explored in depth various aspects of DGR development:

  • Lessons learnt from experiences in development of DGR facilities;
  • Setting the foundations for initiating DGR programmes;
  • Siting approaches for DGRs;
  • Cross-cutting aspects and societal considerations;
  • How to foster the use of existing R&D facilities and international co-operation;
  • How to establish dialogue between the generators and the implementers in interdependent aspects of radioactive waste management, and the impact future advanced reactors, new technologies, and new waste streams will have on disposal;
  • Key takeaways.

Photo: Krystal Kenney Photo: Krystal Kenney 

The Younger Generation Session brought together university students and young professionals for a full day of presentations and discussions. Photo: Krystal Kenney.

Building upon the success of previous conferences held in Denver (1999), Stockholm (2003), Berne (2007), Toronto (2012), Paris (2016), and Helsinki (2022), ICGR-7 also engaged university students and young professionals to ensure that younger generations both participate and contribute to these important discussions that will impact their future. The Younger Generation Session this year attracted a record number of participants who explored nuclear energy education, research and career development opportunities, with a specific focus on enabling the establishment of DGR programmes. Delving into the initiatives of NEA, IAEA, EC, and WNA, with specific presentations dedicated to each organisation, participants in this session focused on methods for further engaging youth to foster academic and career growth in this field.

Photo: Krystal Kenney

Site visit to the LILW Disposal Centre in Gyeongju, Korea.

Each ICGR includes a site visit to a radioactive waste repository in the host country. ICGR-7 participants had a chance to visit the Wolsong Low- and Intermediate-Level Radioactive Waste (LILW) Disposal Centre in Gyeongju, Korea.

The conference was co-organised by the NEA and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy of Korea in co-operation with the Korea Radioactive Waste Agency and held in Busan, Korea on 27-31 May.

Preparations for ICGR-8 have now begun.

See also