Available Reprocessing and Recycling Services for Research Reactor Spent Nuclear Fuel, IAEA, 2017

Adelfang, P. (IAEA), Arkhangelsky, N. (Rosatom), Baryshnikov, M. (Techsnabexport), at al. 



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One of the IAEA’s statutory objectives is to “seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world.” One way this objective is achieved is through the publication of a range of technical series. Two of these are the IAEA Nuclear Energy Series and the IAEA Safety Standards Series.

According to Article III.A.6 of the IAEA Statute, the safety standards establish “standards of safety for protection of health and minimization of danger to life and property”. The safety standards include the Safety Fundamentals, Safety Requirements and Safety Guides. These standards are written primarily in a regulatory style, and are binding on the IAEA for its own programmes. The principal users are the regulatory bodies in Member States and other national authorities.

The IAEA Nuclear Energy Series comprises reports designed to encourage and assist R&D on, and application of, nuclear energy for peaceful uses. This includes practical examples to be used by owners and operators of utilities in Member States, implementing organizations, academia, and government officials, among others. This information is presented in guides, reports on technology status and advances, and best practices for peaceful uses of nuclear energy based on inputs from international experts. The IAEA Nuclear Energy Series complements the IAEA Safety Standards Series.

Responsible use of nuclear technology requires that — in addition to safety, security and environmental protection assurance — credible solutions are developed for dealing with the management of the full cycle of the research reactor fuel, including its disposition after removal from the reactor core.

It appears that the end-point of the research reactor spent nuclear fuel management is expected to be the development of a geological repository, which will be used for the disposal of spent fuel assemblies, directly or after conditioning, or shipping the spent nuclear fuel to a reprocessing facility and closing the fuel cycle by the disposal of the waste resulted from its reprocessing.

Since the existing experience in spent nuclear fuel disposal (direct or after conditioning) is very limited and available to just a few countries, this publication intends to discuss the key aspects of research reactor spent nuclear fuel reprocessing and recycling as the only available solution based on mature technologies for the back end management of the fuel cycle.

The international experience and information assimilated during the accomplishment of highly-enriched uranium research reactor fuel take back programmes was collected and assembled in this publication, with the purpose to disseminate, make available and give a guiding document for considering the reprocessing and recycling option as back end management of their spent nuclear fuel to research reactor managers, research reactor spent nuclear fuel storage facilities managers and decision making bodies.

The IAEA wishes to thank all those who participated in the consultancy meetings and provided inputs to collect and put together the key elements of research reactor spent nuclear fuel back end management in a consistent form. Special thanks to Ms M. Budu and Mr M. Chiguer for their contribution to the final edition of the publication. The IAEA officials responsible for the publication were Mr P. Adelfang, Ms F. Marshall and Mr S. Tozser from the Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology.

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