Safety comes first at COVRA. We are constantly working on improvements. Under the Nuclear Energy Act, we assess all safety precautions every five years. This takes place based on the latest (international) developments, changed legislation and regulations and the latest techniques.
How often does COVRA update its safety policy?
Do any harmful substances enter the air or water during the processing of radioactive waste? If this is the case, is this harmful to the environment?
The permitted discharge values of COVRA are low. This means that very little material is allowed to enter the environment. Both the water and the air are cleaned. The quantity we discharge is only a fraction of the permitted quantity. This does not affect the environment.
How long does radioactive waste remain dangerous?
Radiation reduces the radioactivity of the waste. As a result, the waste is no longer dangerous in the end. At that point, we call the radioactive substance ‘decayed’. How long this takes depends on the radioactive material. This varies from a few seconds to more than one hundred thousand years. Approximately two-thirds of COVRA’s low and intermediate-level radioactive waste will decay within one hundred years. The long-lived waste that is still radioactive after one hundred years, can best be stored in deep, stable geological strata. This is called deep geological disposal. [Link to the page Geological disposal]
How dangerous is radioactive waste?
How dangerous radioactive waste is depends on the amount of radiation and what is done with the waste. Together, these two factors determine the extent to which people are exposed to the radiation. Radioactive radiation is dangerous for people and the environment. It can cause damage to DNA.
We are constantly exposed to natural radiation. The human body almost always repairs this damage itself. If damaged DNA does not properly repair the damage caused by this radiation, it can cause cancer in the long term. The more often you are exposed to large amounts of radiation, the greater the chance that this will happen. However, there is a greater chance of not getting cancer. If you receive one hundred times more radiation than in a normal year, the risk of cancer only increases by one percent.
By processing and storing radioactive waste properly and safely, as we do at COVRA, we ensure that it remains outside people’s living space thus minimising exposure.
Is the stored waste harmful to people living near COVRA?
The radioactive waste stored there is safe for employees and people who live and work in the vicinity of COVRA. The waste is processed and isolated in drums or special storage containers. The storage buildings are all specially designed for their task. The walls of the high-level radioactive waste storage building, for instance, are made of 1.70-metre-thick concrete with almost six million kilograms of reinforcement steel. The building is designed to withstand earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and airplane crashes. The building can even withstand the impact of an F16. The thick walls also ensure that no radiation gets through. As a result, almost no increase in radiation can be measured at the COVRA site boundary. The increase at the site border may not exceed 40 microsieverts per year (current individual dose). A dose of 40 microsieverts per year is 40 times lower than the average dose of background radiation in the Netherlands.
Does COVRA have a safety policy in place?
Yes, COVRA has developed a safety policy to manage risks. In this policy, we make a distinction between safety (the protection of people and the environment) and security (protection against unauthorised access to or alteration of the installations and the COVRA site). Safety within COVRA is laid down in a safety report [link to report] and an environmental impact report [link to report]. These documents are supervised by various external bodies.
Who is responsible for monitoring the safety policy?
The Nuclear Energy Act requires COVRA to be accountable to various national and international inspection services, including the ANVS (Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Authority), and the International Organisation IAEA. The Nuclear Physics Service (KFD) and the Ministry of Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate are responsible for monitoring safety policy.
Can I view the safety policy?
COVRA’s safety documents are public, such as the environmental impact report [link] and the safety report [link]. This is not possible for specific security aspects. These documents are confidential and can only be viewed by the supervisory authority.