In 1996, the European Council adopted Directive 96/29/Euratom of 13 May 1996 (OJ No. L 159/1) laying down basic safety standards for the protection of the health of workers and the general public against the dangers arising from ionizing radiation. These standards are based on the latest International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommendations. Although not addressing radioactive waste management per se, several general principles form the foundation for national and European Community legislation in the field of management and disposal of radioactive waste.
The Directive, which is to be transposed into national legislation of the member states within four years, identifies three basic radiation protection principles that are relevant for the management and disposal of radioactive waste. In general, a system of radiation protection should be based on the principles of justification of exposure, optimization of protection, and dose limits (Title IV). Of particular relevance to radioactive waste management are the provisions on the reporting and authorization of management practices (Title III). The Directive's system of notification, registration, and licensing applies to all nuclear activities and is thus directly applicable to radioactive waste. Article 5 specifically focuses on disposal, recycling, and reuse of radioactive substances, practices that are subject to prior authorization, unless they comply with "clearance levels"--certain values established by competent national authorities at or below which the practice concerned can be exempted from the requirements of the Directive.
The Directive imposes a number of obligations on the undertakings responsible for practices defined in Art. 2, which includes waste management practices. In order to ensure compliance with dose limits and the "as low as reasonably achievable" principle, the undertaking has to ensure an optimal level of environmental and population protection by checking the effectiveness of technical devices; by using equipment and procedures for measuring and assessing, as appropriate, radiation exposure and radioactive contamination; and by the regular calibration of measuring instruments and their regular inspection to ensure that they are serviceable and correctly used (Art. 47).
Finally, member states are required to estimate the effective and equivalent doses received by the population and assess the off-site radiological impact by calculating the most-exposed individual dose in the vicinity of the facility (Title V). Special provisions apply to intervention in cases of radiological emergencies. For instance, where storage and disposal facilities produce significant injurious off-site consequences, the member state concerned is