Expert Group on Characterisation Methodology of Unconventional and Legacy Waste (EGCUL)
Large volume of low-level radioactive wastes that were generated after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident are now tentatively stored on site. Photo: TEPCO.

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, as in both cases, waste tends to be in large volume with unknown radiological and/or chemical properties. This is due to the unknown circumstances of an accident or the impacts of time progression after past nuclear activities.

EGCUL explored several case studies on how to develop a strategic approach to manage the complex characterisation process of waste. Based on such studies, EGCUL provided international best practices and shared the lessons learnt in different countries.

Publications and reports

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 had different properties compared with the waste generated by nuclear power plants that operated under normal conditions. Therefore, specific management methods/strategies are needed for managing post-accident waste.

In this context, the Japanese Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation (NDF) requested the NEA’s Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC) in March 2017 to assist in developing an integrated methodology for managing a large amount of radioactive waste with unknown properties, focusing on radiological characterisation. Then, EGCUL launched in 2018 to tackle these challenges with the following objectives:

  • share state-of-the-art knowledge and experience in characterisation for a large amount of unknown waste
  • discuss relevant issues and challenges on characterisation in member countries
  • provide international feedback on Japan's newly developed characterisation methodology
  • explore possible links with the Committee on Decommissioning of Nuclear Installations and Legacy Management (CDLM), the Committee on Radiological Protection and Public Health’s (CRPPH) Expert Group on Legacy Management (EGLM) and other radiation protection issues
  • write a report to be submitted to the RWMC on state-of-the-art methodology and best practice on the characterisation of a large amount of unknown waste.

Previous related work

The Expert Group on Fukushima Waste Management and Decommissioning R&D (EGFWMD), established under RWMC in 2014-2016, 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.

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Yuko Maehashi