Underground research laboratories (URLs) have been, and will continue to be, an important element of the development of disposal concepts and the future implementation of geological repositories for long-lived, high-level radioactive waste and spent fuel waste. Confronted with the difficult task in building public confidence, IAEA Member States have shown a growing interest for implementing more visible international research and demonstration projects in the existing URLs. The importance of the role the IAEA could play in facilitating international collaborations has been reflected in the initiatives recently taken by Member States to open their URLs to international co-operative activities under the Agency’s aegis. Preliminary discussions have already identified interests and requirements that countries without URLs could expect from collaboration within facilities open to international activities. More focused discussions to clarify common needs and objectives are taking place in 2001. A network of international pools of research and training is being established, while agreements on projects are implemented between the Agency and participating Member States.

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