Radioactive waste management organization

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An organization which processes radioactive waste


Radioactive waste can present a hazard to the environment for a long stretch of time. The time period over which waste management issues have to be considered is therefore unusually long. The need to retain critical knowledge in this domain for such time periods presents a formidable challenge which requires long-sighted planning and commitment.

In addition to the long-term commitmment, many challenges such as the complexity of the processes involved, the consideration of international operating experience, or measures for radiation protection are shared with and comparable to other nuclear operating facilities.

Radioactive waste knowledge management considerations

The management of radioactive waste knowledge requires a strategy that includes creation, recording, sharing and transfer of information and knowledge. The primary objectives of the strategy must be to ensure radioactive waste management stakeholders: Have access to information of the appropriate quality at the right time; Can share and transfer information and knowledge; Have the skills and expertise necessary to understand and interpret the information. Information reflects a particular situation at a fixed point in time. Knowledge, however, is dynamic and it changes with time. As expertise matures and skills develop, interpretation and understanding of recorded information can change and new knowledge is created. Change in knowledge can be imperceptibly slow, but over the timescales needed to safely manage and dispose of radioactive waste, the implication of this change can be significant. There are many good reasons for managing knowledge about radioactive waste but the most important is its contribution to safety. An organization responsible for the treatment, conditioning, storage, transport and disposal of waste must ensure it has access to the crucial knowledge and relevant skills. Furthermore, the organization is also obliged to ensure this knowledge is passed to future custodians. This obligation can span several decades and, potentially, centuries. In addition to safe operation, radioactive waste management facilities must be operated efficiently. The criteria used to measure efficiency are likely to be ‘time’ and ‘cost’. When managing radioactive waste, targets relating to both criteria are challenging to achieve. Having access to the relevant ‘Know-how’ as well as the ‘Know-what’ can clearly have a positive impact on efficiency. Increasingly, government funded waste management organizations have to demonstrate that they are making responsible use of public funding. In commercial organizations, the economic effectiveness of an organization is a major factor in its viability. Knowledgeable workforces help ensure decisions are robust, money is well spent and the need to re-work is minimized. Society exercises its right, through regulation, to ensure critical decisions are well founded. Communicating the bases of these decisions is important, considering that future generations will live with the consequences. Records containing information about the decision making process and the legislative framework within which those decisions were made, will provide both assurance and understanding to future generations.

The specifics on managing knowledge in a radioactive waste management organization are documented in [1]


[1] Knowledge management for radioactive waste management organisations (to be published)