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IAEA Spent Fuel Management Conference Concludes with Award to Young Professionals


The IAEA's Conference on the Management of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors, held from 24 to 28 June, attracted over 250 participants and observers from 45 Member States and seven organizations. (Photo: A. Evrensel/IAEA)

With a project on reducing the area of a geological disposal site by introducing partitioning technologies, a first year doctoral student from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tomohiro Okamura, won the #SFM19 Young Generation Challenge, whose finalists were announced at the IAEA Conference on the Management of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors in Vienna last week.

“My research objective was to create a sophisticated nuclear energy system by reducing the load of nuclear waste disposal,” Okamura said. “The project shows the effect of partitioning technologies on high burn-up fuel and high content vitrified waste. As a mechanical engineer and third generation Nagasaki bomb survivor, I have been captivated by the challenges posed by spent fuel and have attentively followed the work of the IAEA.”

The Young Generation Challenge, held in conjunction with the five-day Conference, was open to participants worldwide, with young professionals up to the age of 37 asked to promote discussion and awareness of the current and future impact of spent fuel management.

Four finalists – Balázs Ficker (Hungary), Jacob Home (United Kingdom), Andrey Kirkin (Russia) and Tomohiro Okamura (Japan) – who defined and developed the most innovative projects, were selected from among 35 applicants to present their papers. The finalists also co-chaired various conference sessions, helping the conference bridge the generation gap by integrating their perspectives.

Conference conclusions

The conference, held from 24 to 28 June, attracted over 250 participants and observers from 45 IAEA Member States and seven organizations. The hand-over of the awards was one of the highlights of the event.

“Holding this conference regularly enables the spent fuel community to keep the momentum and underline the message that the safe, secure and sustainable management of spent fuel is a must – not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is the key to the future of nuclear energy,” said IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, Juan Carlos Lentijo. “Regular conferences on spent fuel management help the Agency develop and adjust its activities related to this topic.”

During the closing session, Susan Pickering, Director Emeritus of Sandia National Laboratories, underlined the importance of sharing data, operational experience, and collaboration in research, and how its development and implementation can lead to attainable solutions.

Hilda Mpakany, a technical officer from the Kenyan Nuclear Power and Energy Agency, emphasized the importance of the conference for newcomers in nuclear power. “As a participant from an embarking country, this conference enabled me to visualize the management of spent fuel in a broader perspective – which is very useful for my country as it sets up the necessary infrastructure for the safe management of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel,” she said.

Spent fuel pool of Unit 2 at the Brunswick Nuclear Power Plant, USA. (Photo: Nuclear Regulatory Commission/USA)

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