International cooperation at Andra: focus on Canada
On April 23, Andra renewed its cooperation agreement with NWMO (Nuclear Waste Management Organization), the Canadian organization in charge of radioactive waste management. What does this cooperation mean in concrete terms? Paola Vilarino Salinas, international business manager, explains.
How long has Andra and NWMO been cooperating?
Paola Vilarino Salinas: The first cooperation agreement dates back to 2013, so we are on the second renewal. NWMO has been working on a geological disposal project for spent fuel since 2007. At present, our Canadian counterparts are working on finding a site for the disposal facility, in an extensive consultation process with local populations. The choice of site will have to be made in 2024, which could lead them to locate the disposal in a non-nuclear site. Their project is progressing and this allows an exchange of information and practices that is enriching for both agencies.
What is the objective of the cooperation?
P. V. S.: The purpose of these agreements is to facilitate exchanges on strategic, scientific, technical and operational subjects within a clear and protected legal framework with our international counterparts. These exchanges enable experts to meet and learn from each other: we can benefit from the best practices of our counterparts and, conversely, share ours with them. This also helps to spread Andra's know-how in radioactive waste management internationally.
Can you give some concrete examples?
P. V. S.: The topics covered are varied. In particular, there was a workshop on communication, commitment and community relations: how do we talk about radioactive waste to the general public and get them interested in our activity? A second workshop focused on the taxation systems in effect at Andra's sites and those to come around Cigéo, as well as in Ontario. And a third focused on organizational transformation and capabilities, contractual approaches and regulatory challenges in the context of the Cigéo project.
Who can attend these meetings?
P. V. S.: Members of the International Relations Department are always present, but employees from the relevant professions also take part in these discussions: for the examples given above, it was the communication teams, the general secretariat or members of the Cigéo project. Many of the Agency's departments are likely to contribute to international relations!
The past .... and the future
The history of Andra - NWMO cooperation
Andra and NWMO signed a first cooperation agreement on February 6, 2013 for five years with the objective of establishing a framework for cooperation between the two agencies through various activities, including the exchange of information on topics of interest around radioactive waste management. This agreement, which was first renewed for the period 2018-2023, has just been renewed with the signing of the agreement on April 23, 2023 in Ottawa.
And the actions to come
Following the signing of the agreement for the period 2023-2028, the two Agencies are seeking to strengthen and improve cooperation between their respective organizations with regard to radioactive waste management. To this end, we are entering into a phase of exchanges with NWMO in order to identify potential topics for cooperation between the two agencies, which will lead to various Agency staff participating in technical exchanges with our counterparts. For example, knowledge management or the development of technical processes for the conditioning of HA waste could be subjects for collaboration with NWMO.