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Fuel Cycle & Waste Management
Devoted to all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle including waste management, worldwide. Division specific areas of interest and involvement include uranium conversion and enrichment; fuel fabrication, management (in-core and ex-core) and recycle; transportation; safeguards; high-level, low-level and mixed waste management and disposal; public policy and program management; decontamination and decommissioning environmental restoration; and excess weapons materials disposition.
Utility Working Conference Virtual Summit (UWC)
August 11–11, 2020
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The ongoing effort to convert the world’s research reactors
The Ghana Research Reactor-1, located in Accra, Ghana, was converted from HEU fuel to LEU in 2017. Photo: Argonne National Laboratory
In late 2018, Nigeria’s sole operating nuclear research reactor, NIRR-1, switched to a safer uranium fuel. Coming just 18 months on the heels of a celebrated conversion in Ghana, the NIRR-1 reboot passed without much fanfare. However, the switch marked an important global milestone: NIRR-1 was the last of Africa’s 11 operating research reactors to run on high-enriched uranium fuel.
The 40-year effort to make research reactors safer and more secure by replacing HEU fuel with low-enriched uranium is marked by a succession of quiet but immeasurably significant milestones like these. Before Africa, a team of engineers from many organizations, including the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, concluded its conversion work in South America and Australia. Worldwide, 71 reactors in nearly 40 countries have undergone conversions to LEU, defined as less than 20 percent uranium-235. Another 31 research reactors have been permanently shut down.
Recipient: Miriam Kreher