CRP Examines Management of Spent Fuel from Small Reactors (T13021)

There are currently more than 80 small modular reactor (SMR) designs under the development globally, spanning a wide range of reactor technologies and fuel types, from light water reactors (LWR) and high temperature gas cooled reactors (HTGR) to liquid metal fast reactors (FR) and molten salt reactors (MSR). How will the fuel for these reactors be managed once it’s been removed from the reactor’ core? The IAEA is launching a new IAEA Coordinated Research Project (CRP) to identify the challenges, gaps and opportunities for managing spent fuel from the various SMR technologies.

“Understanding the implications of the management of new spent fuels is important for Member States to make informed decision when selecting SMR technologies and related fuel cycle options,” said Amparo Gonzalez Espartero, Technical Lead of Spent Fuel Management in the IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy. “This CRP will produce information to support countries in making assessment for their spent fuel management strategy, according to their specific context.”

SMRs based on current light water reactor technologies will use the same type of fuel as conventional, large nuclear power plants, which has been successfully managed for decades. However, accommodating different spent fuels coming from SMRs will require adaptation of all stages of the backend of the fuel cycle. In the case of first‑of‑a‑kind or less established technologies, there is less available experience, implying the need for more R&D and demonstrations, to ensure that the main safety objectives for spent fuel management are met.

CRP Overall Objective

The overall objectives of this CRP are to identify viable nuclear fuel cycle options for the different SMR technologies; to establish specific roadmaps of activities for the backend of the fuel cycle per SMR technology, identifying what can be derived from existing practices, optimized and adapted, or fully developed considering the lack of data and gaps within existing knowledge; and to identify generic key parameters/criteria to support countries designing their backend programmes incorporating their specific context.

Specific Research Objectives

  • Identify potential collaborative work between CRP partners.
  • Strengthen the knowledge of Member States with limited experience in the backend of the fuel cycle of nuclear power programmes.
  • Increase the participation of young professional experts.
  • Identify potential stages for managing spent fuel from SMRs based on LWR and HTGR technology, and FR and MSR technologies, identifying nuclear materials, infrastructures and wastes involved.
  • Identify opportunities, gaps and challenges to move from the current industrially implemented spent fuel management strategies for the LWR fleet to the spent fuel management strategies envisaged for the different SMR technologies.

How to join this CRP

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