The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), located in Vienna, Austria, recognizes that the status of waste management is very different among countries operating nuclear power plants. Countries with large nuclear programs are generally more advanced than others with smaller inventories or with less organized structures. It is in the interest of all the countries engaged in the production of nuclear energy—large or small—to promote and facilitate nuclear waste management worldwide, to increase safety.
As participants in this effort, ESD (and the Nuclear Waste Program within it) is a member of the IAEA Research Network (an IAEA Centers of Excellence network). This network, established in 2003, serves as a way of maintaining communication and sharing information among countries involved in nuclear waste management and disposal. In 2003, 2004, and 2005, the ESD Nuclear Waste Program hosted week-long training courses, under the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Program, to provide general training on methodologies for geologic disposal. The objective of this program was to transfer knowledge and technology from nations with advanced research and development programs in underground research facilities, to nations with less-developed repository implementation programs or with no direct access to underground research laboratories. The aim is to increase the level of competence in nuclear waste management among countries needing to dispose of spent fuel and highly radioactive waste. Another training course was planned for Berkeley, August 20-24, 2007.
In August 2006, as part of an IAEA Cooperative Research Project, ESD conducted a week-long modeling training course focusing specifically on the ESD-developed TOUGH simulation software codes. ESD is the primary developer of the TOUGH family of codes, which incorporate the key processes involved in nuclear waste disposal, including thermally driven, coupled hydrological, chemical, and mechanical processes. The TOUGH codes are considered to be key DOE’s numerical simulation tools for fluid flow within porous soil or fractured rock. These codes are currently in use in approximately 300 institutions in more than 30 countries.