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The Joint Convention
The UN Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.
The Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management (Joint Convention) is the first legally binding international treaty on radioactive waste safety. It was opened for signature on 29 September 1997. It entered into force on 18 June 2001.
Australian National Report to the Joint Convention Fourth Review Meeting – October 2011
The Joint Convention represents a commitment by participating countries to achieve and maintain a consistently high level of safety in the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste as part of the global safety regime for ensuring the protection of people and the environment.
The Joint Convention applies to spent fuel and radioactive waste resulting from civilian nuclear reactors and use of radioactive materials in medicine, industry and research. It also applies to spent fuel and radioactive waste from military or defence programs if and when such materials are transferred permanently to civilian programs, or when declared as spent fuel or radioactive waste for the purpose of the Convention by the Contracting Party. The Convention also applies to planned and controlled releases into the environment of liquid or gaseous radioactive materials from regulated nuclear facilities.
Wastes from the mining and processing of uranium ores are subject to the Joint Convention. However, the Convention does not apply to waste that contains only naturally-occurring radioactive materials that do not originate from the nuclear fuel cycle, unless it is declared as radioactive waste for the purposes of the Convention by the Contracting Party. For the purposes of the Convention, Australia has not declared wastes containing only naturally-occurring radioactive materials that do not originate from the nuclear fuel cycle as radioactive waste.
The obligations of Australia, as a Contracting Party, include the establishment and maintenance of a legislative and regulatory framework to govern the safety of spent fuel and radioactive waste management, and to ensure that individuals, society and the environment are adequately protected against radiological and other hazards. These obligations extend to appropriate siting, design and construction of waste storage and disposal facilities and ensuring the safety of facilities both during their operation and after their closure. The Convention imposes obligations on Australia in relation to the trans-boundary movement of spent fuel and radioactive waste, and an obligation to take appropriate steps to ensure that disused sealed sources are managed safely.
Preparations for Australia’s 4th National Report
The Joint Convention requires Contracting Parties to report and to promote open and transparent discussions on the safety of spent fuel and radioactive waste management. One mechanism for achieving these objectives is a peer review panel of national programs for spent fuel and radioactive waste management. The articles of the Joint Convention call for a review meeting to be held at periods not exceeding 3 years. The 4th Review Meeting will be held on 14th to 23rd May 2012 at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna.
The Contracting Parties taking part in the Joint Convention are required to submit a national report at each review meeting, demonstrating the measures they have taken to implement every obligation of the Joint Convention.
ARPANSA is coordinating the preparation of Australia’s 4th National Report, which was due in Vienna by 7 October 2011. Contributions are being sought from major stakeholders including all States and Territories and the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (RET) and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). RET has responsibility for developing the Commonwealth policy framework for radioactive waste management, consistent with the principles of environmental responsibility and sustainable development.
A new initiative this time around is to utilise the IAEA Net Enabled Waste Management Database (NEWMDB) for reporting Australia’s national inventory of radioactive waste holdings.
Australia’s previous National Reports
Since its ratification in August 2003, Australia has submitted three National Reports to the review meetings for the Joint Convention. Documents relating to those reviews and Australia’s previous National Reports are available online.Top of Page