As the enlargement of the European Union draws closer, and the general nuclear safety situation in the candidate countries of Central and Eastern Europe comes under more and more scrutiny from the current Member States, it is interesting to see just how far these countries have progressed in solving their existing radioactive waste management problems — and where further improvement is still required. Western assistance and co-operation programmes have helped these countries in initiating the various reforms, but ultimately it is only through full implementation of appropriate national strategies and legislation that these reforms can be brought to fruition. This paper examines the present situation in the field of radioactive waste management in the light of past practice in these countries. The different problem areas are briefly described. These include the management of spent nuclear fuel and operational radioactive waste, treatment of waste from non-fuel cycle sources, spent sealed radioactive sources, the regulatory and institutional infrastructure, financial aspects, decommissioning of facilities and uranium mining. Short summaries are also presented of the progress to date of the current reform programmes in each of the candidate countries. These show that the countries concerned have done and are still doing a great deal to rectify the problems that developed during decades of Soviet influence. The degree of progress varies from country to country and it is clear that ultimately complete adoption of what are loosely defined as “western safety standards and practices” will depend on the other socio-political and economic reforms in these countries. The prospects for the future are also briefly discussed, though observations are necessarily of a qualitative nature. Of considerable importance will be the eventual recommendations regarding nuclear safety in the context of enlargement that are due to be finalised this year by the Council of Minister’s working party on atomic affairs. These recommendations stem from an evaluation by the working party of the situation regarding nuclear safety in general in the candidate countries, specifically with respects to a “high-level of nuclear safety” that has been defined according to accepted good practice within EU Member States.

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