Following a Regional Meeting on Safe Management of Uranium Production Legacy Sites in Vienna last month, Central Asian Member States have agreed to establish a Coordination Group for Uranium Legacy Sites (CGULS). They agreed to strengthen regulatory and legislative frameworks, national capacity and to integrate efforts to maximize resources and avoid duplication of efforts in the affected countries, IAEA said on its website.
Delegates and representatives from Central Asian countries, international organizations, donors, and other stakeholders agreed to work together to develop measures to address the challenges of dealing with tailings from Cold War-era uranium mining in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The meeting succeeded in creating an integrated, focused approach to the efforts of national and international organizations in order to reduce the risks associated with these uranium legacy sites.
Uranium tailing deposits left over from mining during the Cold War in Kyrgystan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan contain more than 800 million tons of radioactive and toxic waste. Most of the uranium tailing sites are located in populated and natural-disaster prone areas of Central Asia's largest river basins and pose a risk to the region's water supply and the health of local communities. Experts agree that radiological hazards that may exist are chronic long term exposure hazards, not acute hazards. Moreover, toxic and chemical hazards from the heavy metals associated with these uranium wastes are of equal concern.
In his opening address, Pil-Soo Hahn, Director of the IAEA's Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety said, "our challenge in this meeting is to understand each other's problems and perspectives, to look for opportunities to build synergisms, and to agree upon a technical coordination mechanism that brings maximum benefit to our Member States." He said he recognize this as an important issue for Russia and Ukraine as well.
The IAEA, with support from the European Commission (EC), organized the meeting to identify viable solutions for closer cooperation between the international community and the IAEA Member States of Central Asia. Since the IAEA has the appropriate expertise to manage technical coordination for this specialized area of work, the EC has provided funds to the IAEA to assist with these types of activities. With this initiative, the IAEA will facilitate the safe remediation of these radiologically contaminated sites in a manner that is consistent with international standards and good practices. International organizations and donors including United Nations Development Program, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the EC, Eurasian Economic Community, the IAEA and the governments of Norway, Russia and Ukraine expressed unanimous support for the initiative.
In 2004 the Central Asian Republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan requested technical assistance from the IAEA to deal with the legacy of the former uranium industry. Over the last several years, the IAEA has conducted a number of projects in Central Asia to build national capacity in the areas of regulatory infrastructure, analytical services, radiation protection, environmental sampling /monitoring, and safety assessments. The purpose is to quantify and reduce radiological risks to the public and the environment.
by RTT Staff Writer
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