• Home
  • Research
  • Key Topic 5: Construction and Operational Safety

Key Topic 5: Construction and Operational Safety


This research area considers the protection of operators and members of the public that might be affected by construction and operations (including construction, normal emplacement and other operating modes, closure, monitoring and active control) in or nearby geological repositories.

Even though geological repository development is founded on the implementation of a strong safety culture, the practical issues of industrial/conventional safety will first be confronted at the construction stage, with the issues of radiation safety not confronted until the operational stage.

Adaptations in support of operational safety might affect the design of the repository system and should be evaluated with respect to their impact on long-term safety requirements, as well as their impact on operational safety in the shorter term.  It is noted that geological disposal facilities are unique installations, where one needs to combine (amongst other aspects):

  • Nuclear engineering practice and radiation protection.
  • Classical industrial safety aspects.
  • Geotechnical and rock engineering in underground works (including practical mining experience where applicable).

Although regulations for each of the safety aspects exist (or might exist as these can be dependent on national circumstances), there are not always clear integrated regulations available.  Indeed, conflicting requirements might even exist among the different aspects as some regulations were developed for purposes other than geological repository construction.

Although design and concepts differ from one waste management programme to another, some operations and challenges of safety of construction and operation have similarities and there is considerable benefit in sharing experience and solutions.


The main objective of this research area is to achieve consistency among WMOs in areas such as methodological approaches, strategies, procedures, and reference values.  As a consequence, this objective contributes strongly to the first pillar, “Safely Operate”, of the 2040 Vision.  As the operational safety issues can have an impact on the final design and layout of a repository, this objective has also some links with the second pillar, “Optimise and Industrialise”, of the 2040 Vision.