International Topical Meeting on Nuclear Research Applications and Utilization of Accelerators

Vienna, Austria

by Yury Sokolov, IAEA Deputy Director General, Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you on behalf of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the International Conference on Nuclear Research Applications and Utilization of Accelerators, which is organized by the IAEA, in cooperation with the American Nuclear Society. Two of the Agency┬┤s departments, the Department of Nuclear Science and Applications and the Department of Nuclear Energy jointly contributed to its preparation, and, as you see, the two DDsG are welcoming you to this conference.

Accelerators as a part of modern technology have a remarkable but, for the general public, not very visible role. Only outstanding examples like the Large Hadron collider and the possibility of "a black hole" can excite general interest.

Since the first accelerator in 1929, two basic types - linear and circular - have been continuously used and developed as scientific and technical tools with a broad range - from studying the evolution of the universe, high energy physics and the structure of matter and materials, through numerous applications in industry, medicine and agriculture, to such mundane, "unsexy" applications as managing wastes, like sterilizing discharged water, cleaning exhaust gases, or transmuting minor actinides in nuclear reactor waste.

Accelerator applications are a mature sector of modern technology. It is difficult to cover all aspects of their utilization in one conference in sufficient detail. We, together with the experts on the international programme committee and technical committees, selected aspects that are relevant to the programmatic activities of the Agency and sorted them into the three main sessions and six satellite meetings of the present conference.

As the DDG-NE responsible for the nuclear power programme of the Agency, I would highlight two major aspects of accelerator utilization: specifically research and development of new advanced materials subject to high dose irradiation and optimization of the nuclear power system and fuel cycle. My colleague DDG-NA Mr. Werner Burkart will address other important aspects of this Conference.

I have selected these two aspects of accelerator utilization, structural material developments, and partitioning and transmutation, as ones relevant to nuclear power development due to the increasing interest in nuclear power in the world, as was confirmed in the International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century in Beijing this past week.

Materials behaviour under irradiation has been studied for more than 50 years, but our major experience is still limited within the area of "thermal reactors" while advanced fission and fusion systems are characterized by much larger radiation damage at higher temperatures. These challenging operational conditions require intensive research and development. Special emphasis is given to materials development for advanced reactors systems within the Generation IV, INPRO and ITER programmes.

The use of accelerators to simulate radiation damage is a well proven and useful tool for investigating high dose effects. Recent developments in experimental techniques, theoretical modelling and computational capabilities make these simulation opportunities more and more attractive, taking into account the increasing cost of testing under neutron irradiation and limited availability of test reactors for such experiments.

Responding to these growing needs in the Member States, the IAEA started a Coordinated Research Project on Accelerator Simulation and Theoretical Modelling of Radiations Effects. It now unites 16 institutions from 13 countries that are interested and involved in researching and developing new radiation resistant materials for advanced fission and future fusion reactors. The door is still open, and within the next few months, we can still consider a few more applications for this project.

In speaking about the revival of interest in nuclear power we need to be fully aware of the challenges of increasingly stringent safety requirements and public concerns about the management of high level wastes. These concerns have led to R&D efforts to develop a technology aimed at reducing the amount and radio-toxicity of long-lived radioactive waste through burning up minor actinides and transmuting some long-lived fission products in accelerator driven subcritical systems (ADS). Several IAEA Member States are conducting studies of P&T in ADS with the goal of reassessing its merits and investigating new approaches, and specific economic and technological issues. Responding to this interest, the IAEA has organized a CRP on Analytical and Experimental Benchmark Analyses of Accelerator Driven Systems (ADS) and is maintaining the ADS Research and Development Database.

In conclusion let me say that the IAEA has established priorities in its accelerator activities related to the power applications that reflect the interests of Member States and support their efforts. We hope that the present location of the Accelerator Applications Conference in Vienna will help to define some useful trends and developments in the application and use of accelerators and make it complementary to other international events on this subject.

Thank you for your attention and I offer the floor to my colleague DDG-NA Mr. Werner Burkart.

Last update: 27 October 2014