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Nuclear Fuel Cycle at Centre of IAEA Scientific Forum

Carlo Rubbia delivering his opening statement at the IAEA Scientific Forum. (Photo credit: D. Calma/IAEA)

Leading experts, including Nobel Prize winner Carlo Rubbia, opened the IAEA Scientific Forum this morning. The focus of the two-day session is on the nuclear fuel cycle - including presentations on advanced fuel cycles and reactor concepts, waste management issues and the research reactor fuel cycle.

Prof. Rubbia, winner of the 1984 Nobel Prize for physics, and President of Italy´s nuclear energy agency (ENEA), urged research into new sources of energy. He said new methods and new ideas were needed in order to harness, on a vast scale, the immense potentials of nuclear energy.

Prof. Rubbia outlined a scenario where it was no longer necessary to enrich uranium, now needed to fuel nuclear power plants; and where the highly radioactive nuclear waste produced by power plants would be entirely recycled.

"In these conditions, the totality of the fuel is burnt and the energy extracted from a given supply of natural element could be about two hundreds times larger than the one presently in use," Prof. Rubbia said.

Prof. Rubbia also spoke of a "far fetched future" where an ultimate nuclear energy, void of radioactivity could be exploited. "Radioactivity is one of the main shortcomings of nuclear energy... There are several exothermic reactions which produce no neutrons, neither directly nor indirectly through secondary reactions. Since neutrons are the primary sources of activation, their absence will be a tremendous asset, making the process inherently ´clean´," he said.

In his welcoming remarks to the Forum, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei also emphasized the need for technological and institutional innovation. "For nuclear power to be sustainable as a global source of emission-free energy, the reactor fuel cycle must also remain sustainable." See the Director General´s full statement under Story Resources for more.

Tomorrow´s Scientific Forum session will cover research reactors, including HEU fuel issues, utilization, decommissioning, and spent fuel management.

Last update: 27 Jul 2017

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