The initial phase of the programme focused almost exclusively on waste management issues, with decommissioning work being effectively limited to specific studies and licensing procedures. The existing waste management infrastructure were reinforced and, where possible, the transfer of ownership and the removal off site of nuclear and special materials (which no longer support the site activities) was pursued. The next phase aim at the treatment and conditioning of existing waste and at the recovery, collection and off-site shipment of irradiated and nuclear material. The final phases will concern decommissioning of the nuclear installations, site clean-up and remediation up to the "green field", a status where no signoficant radioactive hazard remains.
A number of important concepts need to be emphasised as follows:
- In the execution of the program there are some priorities: maintaining the technical knowledge of staff, staff training in the areas of decommissioning and waste management, use best technical expertise in the market, use of appropriate indicators such as reduction in the workers absorbed radiation dose and the rate of reduction of secondary waste products. The JRC, in its role of contracting authority and intelligent informed customer, coordinates and monitors the activities carried out by the industrial and external suppliers of specialized services, and gives an account of the evolution of the programme to the European Parliament and the Council. In this role, it takes full control of the legal, contractual, safety, quality, environmental protection and communication aspects of the programme;
- Taking into account financial constraints and licensing requirements, the Programme must be carried out as soon as reasonably possible in order to reduce charges related to the safe conservation of shutdown facilities and to mitigate potential cost increases due to evolving nuclear requirements related to safety and waste storage;
- The general condition of the plant and its potential re-use following the unconditional release of the site strongly influences the priorities of decommissioning activities. In general, the decommissioning of an installation will not include the demolition of the civil infrastructure, although the option of a "green field" is considered in the Programme;
- The resources must be managed effectively and efficiently, ensuring the highest standards of safety and protection for personnel, the public and the environment from radiological hazards, according to the requirements of national and European legislation;
- The programme must be executed making use of the most appropriate technology and be a platform for the exchange of nuclear expertise and know-how for the benefit of Member States, as well as the European institutions and nuclear industry;
- The programme must be implemented in a transparent manner to ensure effective communication with relevant stakeholders: the Council and the European Parliament, the national and local authorities in the host countries and the general public.