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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 Fifth National Report to the Joint Convention

Background to the Joint Convention

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 and disposed of safely.

Preparations and presentation of Australia’s fifth 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 three years. The 5th Review Meeting was held from 11 to 22 May 2015 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 coordinated the preparation of Australia’s Fifth National Report, which was submitted in Vienna on 10 October 2014. Contributions were sought from major stakeholders including all states and territories, the Department of Industry and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). The Department of Industry has responsibility for developing the Commonwealth policy framework for radioactive waste management, consistent with the principles of environmental responsibility and sustainable development.

The IAEA Net Enabled Waste Management Database (NEWMDB) was used for reporting the details of Australia’s national inventory of radioactive waste holdings. A summary of Australia’s national inventory of radioactive waste is presented in an Annex to the fifth National Report.

Australia’s previous National Reports

Since its ratification in August 2003, Australia has submitted five National Reports to the review meetings for the Joint Convention. Documents relating to those reviews and Australia’s previous National Reports are available via the following link.

Previous Joint Convention Review Meetings and National Reports