Mohammed ElBaradei and Serbian Science Minister Božidar Đelić today signed an additional protocol on cooperation between Belgrade and the IAEA, after visiting the Vinča Nuclear Science Institute yesterday. ElBaradei warned that Serbia needed to dispose of its remaining supplies of atomic fuel to prevent any possible incidents.
Once the additional protocol is ratified in parliament, the IAEA, as it does in the majority of countries, will begin conducting comprehensive and detailed inspections, which, thus far, have only been successfully carried out at the Vinča Institute, said the minister. Thorough and all-encompassing inspections would, he said, be conducted throughout the country.
The outgoing IAEA director visited both the nuclear reactor in Vinča that was shut down 24 years ago, as well as a radioactive waste depot. He warned of the danger posed by the remaining unused nuclear waste lying in the reactor, adding that the agency and the government were working on transporting it from Vinča to Russia.
"The unused nuclear waste has begun to rust and we have to move it as soon as possible. The situation is under control for now, but if we let the matter fester, it could be very dangerous from a security point of view. In any case, I'm satisfied with how the situation is developing. We're working closely with the Serbian government and our goals are identical. We must ensure that there are no security risks either here in Vinča or elsewhere in Serbia," said ElBaradei.
The IAEA director brought good tidings too, said Đelić. He said that besides the money earmarked by the EU and the Czech government, further funds for removing the waste would be coming from the agency itself, Russia and the U.S. "We're very close to closing the financial construction of USD 25mn, which I hope will enable us to sign a financial agreement at the IAEA's next annual assembly in October of this year. That way the money will be paid in next March, and the job can be wrapped up in autumn 2010," said the minister.
Warehouses for depositing the radioactive waste are in very poor condition, and much has been said in recent years of the potential dangers. Experts from Vinča have insisted that the danger is minimal, as all the waste has been sealed in containers. Nonetheless, construction of a new storage depot is close to completion. This should resolve the issue of radioactive, medicinal and industrial waste for the long term.
IAEA calls on Serbia to address nuclear waste problem, B92, July 3, 2009