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IAEA Conference on the Management of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors Begins

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(Video: J. Donovan, A. Silva/IAEA)

Over 300 professionals, regulators and policy makers in the field of spent fuel management are meeting in Vienna this week to review advances in the management of spent fuel and ways to overcome challenges.

The IAEA International Conference on the Management of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors: Learning from the Past, Enabling the Future brings together experts from countries with decades of nuclear power operating experience along with countries developing or considering a nuclear power programme.

“For nuclear power to be sustainable, the safe, secure, reliable and efficient management of its fuel cycle is paramount, in particular the management of the spent fuel and radioactive waste generated,” said Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy. “Research, development, engineering and demonstration activities are carried out in Members States to address nuclear power challenges and to enhance safety and security both when establishing and implementing strategies for managing the back end of the fuel cycle. Much can be gained from sharing knowledge, experiences, lessons learned and best practices.”

Management of spent fuel is a complex undertaking, involving storage, transportation, possibly recycling, and disposal. Countries operating nuclear power programmes either reprocess and recycle their spent fuel, or they condition it for disposal in deep underground repositories. While technical solutions for the management of spent fuel exist, any of these options can take decades to implement and require significant resources. In addition, national strategies must be flexible enough to allow for the integration of new technologies that can enhance and improve the efficiency, safety, security and sustainability of nuclear power. This and other challenges and solutions will be discussed at the Conference. For more on the topic, read the latest edition of the IAEA Bulletin published for the conference.

Transport and storage casks in the Interim Storage Facility of Gorleben, Germany (Photo: GNS/Gesellschaft für Nuklear-Service mbH).

On the margins of the event, the IAEA will hold a side event to present its Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Information System (SRIS) as well as a new tool that Member States can use for collecting and reporting relevant information.

The four winners of the conference’s Young Generation Event Challenge have recently been announced. Balázs Ficker (Hungary), Jacob Home (United Kingdom), Andrey Kirkin (Russia) and Tomohiro Okamura (Japan) have been selected from among 35 applicants to present their papers.

“Supporting young professionals and undergraduate students in the field of nuclear energy is essential for the future of this sector. In addition to competitions, such as this, the IAEA organizes workshops and schools,” said Laura McManniman, Spent Fuel Management Specialist at the IAEA. “We also run several professional networks, which young professionals are welcome to join and access all available, relevant resources.”

IAEA services in spent fuel management

The IAEA has recently released an e-learning module on spent fuel management. It is designed to provide an overview of how spent fuel management fits within the scope of the overall nuclear fuel cycle and how strategies have been developed and have evolved over time. The first four lectures of the module are available via the IAEA CLP4NET e-learning platform, covering spent nuclear fuel management overview and strategy and spent fuel storage strategy and implementation. Future material will include a comprehensive set of technical lectures on spent fuel recycling, among other subjects.

To support its Member States in the field of spent fuel management, the IAEA has been conducting a series of coordinated research projects focusing on the behaviour and performance of spent fuel and systems, structures and components, under storage conditions. Its recently published Technical Report compiles operational experience and results of research and development accumulated in the framework of six such projects since 1981. A new project on ageing management programmes for dry storage systems is underway.

The IAEA has published a large series of safety standards in the field of spent fuel and radioactive waste management including new and revised safety standards, such as the Revision of the Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material.

Professionals, regulators and policy makers in the field of spent fuel management attend the IAEA International Conference on the Management of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors: Learning from the Past, Enabling the Future, from 24 to 28 June 2019, Vienna. (Photo: A. Evrensel/IAEA)

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