NEA Mandates and Structures

Expert Group on Characterisation Methodology of Unconventional and Legacy Waste (EGCUL)

Chair(s): Secretary:  Tomohiro HIGASHIHARA
Member(s):All NEA member countries
Full participant(s): European Commission
Under the NEA Statute
Observer(s)(International Organisation): International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
By agreement
Date of creation:01 August 2018
End of mandate:31 July 2020

Mandate (Document reference):

Mandate (Document extract):

Extract from Document NEA/RWM(2018)1/REV1


Radioactive waste management requires planned and systematic actions to provide confidence that the entire system, processes and final products will satisfy given requirements for quality. In order to ensure a quality of end product, it is absolutely necessary to know and control the physical, chemical and radiochemical parameters within the entire waste management life cycle, with special emphasis on waste conditioning, storage and disposal. Testing and analyses to demonstrate the radioactive content and the quality of final waste forms and waste packages are key components of this knowledge and control and are essential to an accurate characterisation of the waste.

Following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP) in March 2011, various kinds of post-accident radioactive waste were generated. The radioactive waste resulting from the accident has different properties compared with the waste generated by nuclear power plants operated under normal conditions. Specific management methods/strategies will be needed for managing the post-accident waste.

After the Fukushima Daiichi accident, the NEA Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC) established the Expert Group on Fukushima Waste Management and Decommissioning R&D (EGFWMD) and to evaluate the management of post-accident waste [NEA/RWM/M(2014)1]. As a first step, the expert group studied lessons learnt from other nuclear accident, (e.g. Three Mile Island and Chernobyl) including handling of any environmental contamination and the current status of related waste management. The group then provided a strategic approach to the Japanese government for effective management of radioactive waste related to Fukushima Daiichi in 2016 [NEA No.7305].

At the 50th Session of the RWMC, which took place in March 2017, the Japanese Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation (NDF) requested the RWMC to further assist in developing an integrated methodology for managing a large amount of radioactive waste with unknown properties, focusing on radiological characterisation.

Looking at NEA member countries, many countries (e.g. Germany, France, Norway, Russia, UK, US) have challenges in the management of legacy waste. The development of a reliable and effective methodology for measuring radiological, physical, chemical, radiochemical and other characteristics is also a challenging area in the management of legacy waste. For example, in 2007, the IAEA published the technical document regarding non-destructive measurements and analytical method mainly for beta-emitters. However, the determination of alpha-emitters remains an important challenge.

Japanese organisations have been developing a characterisation and categorisation methodology for the Fukushima Daiichi waste, including the determination of difficult to measure nuclides. In this regard, the sharing of information and experiences in developing the methodology and discussing technical details of such methodology are beneficial for both international and Japanese organisations, which face same challenges.

The development of a reliable and efficient characterisation and categorisation methodology is a common challenge in the fields of post-accident radioactive waste management and legacy waste management. Therefore, a strategic approach should be developed to manage the complex characterisation process of the waste, which includes a sampling and detailed analysis plan based on statistical approaches, calculation methods and evaluation process for the data obtained. State-of-the-art knowledge and experience in such characterisation will be valuable to develop reliable and efficient characterisation and categorisation methodology.


The objectives of the EGCUL will be: