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HomeNuclearNews StoryInternational Conference on Spent Fuel Management Starts Today

International Conference on Spent Fuel Management Starts Today

“Spent nuclear fuel has been successfully managed for many decades, and while the established practices are safe and effective, it is important for the nuclear power community to be adaptive as the energy landscape evolves,” said Amparo Gonzalez Espartero, the IAEA’s Technical Lead for Spent Fuel Management and Co-Scientific Secretary of the conference.  

“It is vital that all countries with spent fuel management responsibilities, current and future, proactively meet the moment, and this conference represents a great opportunity to share lessons learned and discuss innovative techniques as well as their potential integration in the current programmes.” 

Across the world, considerable progress is being made in the areas of both recycling and disposal of nuclear fuel after it has been used to generate power. Spent fuel retains more than 90 per cent of its potential energy even after five years of use in a nuclear power reactor. Recycling spent fuel involves recovering fissile and fertile materials, through reprocessing the spent fuel, so that they can be used as new nuclear fuel.  

Russia is looking to expand its commercial reprocessing capacity from 400 tonnes per year to up to 1600 tonnes annually over the next 10-15 years, while France announced earlier in March that it plans to extend its existing recycling facilities beyond 2040 and construct additional facilities as well. 

Operations at Finland’s Onkalo spent fuel repository, the world’s first deep geological repository for final disposal of high level radioactive waste, are set to begin around 2025, while Sweden commenced construction of its own final repository facility earlier this year. In France, the construction licence application for the Centre Industriel de stockage Géologique (CIGEO) facility for high level waste disposal was submitted in 2023, with authorization expected by 2027. Canada is preparing to select a site for its deep geological repository by the end of 2024.    

“As with spent fuel from existing reactors, and taking into account the lessons of the past, early planning for the long-term safe management of spent fuel from new technologies is a national responsibility,” said Gerard Bruno, Head of the IAEA Radioactive Waste & Spent Fuel Management Unit and Co-Scientific Secretary of the conference. “The IAEA remains available to provide appropriate support for the safe management, including disposal, of spent fuel and all types of radioactive waste.” 

The conference will consist of panel sessions on national strategies, innovation including how new technologies can be integrated into current spent fuel management strategies, and stakeholder engagement as well as technical sessions on topics including storage, recycling (current and future technologies), transportation, the impacts of advanced energy systems and integrated management of spent fuel.  

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