DFC drops prohibition on nuclear project financing

The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has lifted its ban on financing nuclear power projects abroad. Last month, the DFC proposed the change to its Environmental and Social Policy and Procedures, which had specifically prohibited it from offering such support.

The change, announced by the DFC on July 23, also implements a key recommendation made in an April 2020 report issued by the U.S. Nuclear Fuel Working Group, an interagency initiative to review and modernize U.S. nuclear energy policy.

Irradiation helps Mauritius develop heat-tolerant tomato varieties

The country of Mauritius is using nuclear technology to develop new tomato varieties that can thrive in hotter temperatures. The new high-yielding and heat-tolerant tomato seeds have been distributed to the country’s farmers, helping to protect a national industry valued at US$14 million annually, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on July 15.

The IAEA, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), assisted the Food and Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (FAREI) in Mauritius to develop new tomato varieties using irradiation.

Operating license renewed for Laguna Verde-1

Mexico’s Laguna Verde nuclear power plant. Photo: HFStudios

Mexico’s Ministry of Energy (SENER) announced on July 17 that it has approved the renewal of the operating license for Unit 1 at Laguna Verde, the country’s only nuclear power plant.

Laguna Verde is located on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, in the state of Veracruz. Unit 1 is a General Electric–supplied 777-MWe BWR-5 boiling water reactor that began commercial operation 30 years ago this month. Its near-twin Unit 2, rated at 775 MWe, first came on line in April 1995.

IAEA teams with Japanese university on boron neutron capture therapy R&D

The accelerator-based BNCT system under construction at Nagoya University, shows the electrostatic proton accelerator (on the left) and beam transport line toward the neutron production target (on the right). Photo: Nagoya University

The International Atomic Energy Agency has signed an agreement with Japan’s Okayama University that provides a three-year framework for enhanced cooperation in boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT), the IAEA announced on June 24. BNCT is a noninvasive therapeutic technique for treating invasive malignant tumors.

Nuclear power stats for 2019 now available

The International Atomic Energy Agency has released nuclear power status data for 2019 collected by the Power Reactor Information System (PRIS), the IAEA’s comprehensive nuclear power database. Developed and maintained by the IAEA for more than five decades, PRIS contains historical and current quantitative information on reactors in operation and under construction, as well as on units undergoing decommissioning.

IAEA seeks source of radioisotopes detected over Northern Europe

The International Atomic Energy Agency has emphasized that elevated concentrations of cesium-134, cesium-137, and ruthenium-103 recently detected over Northern Europe pose no risk to human health or the environment, even as the agency continues to investigate their origin.

Elettra designated an IAEA collaborating center

A collaborating center agreement was signed by Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste and the International Atomic Energy Agency in May. The agreement focuses on advanced light sources and will support countries in research, development, and capacity building in the application of advanced and innovative radiation technologies.

IAEA COVID-19 project draws more than $28 million in funding

A health worker at the IAEA Seibersdorf Laboratories in Austria packs a COVID-19 support equipment package, which includes personal protective equipment, PCR machines, reagents, and laboratory consumables. Photo: D. Calma/IAEA

An initiative by the International Atomic Energy Agency to help nearly 120 countries contain the COVID-19 pandemic has received a financial boost from member states and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited.

The IAEA announced on May 13 that Takeda, a biopharmaceutical company based in Tokyo, donated 500 million yen (about US$4.7 million). Two days earlier, the IAEA announced that pledges from more than 10 member nations totaled €22 million (about US$23.8 million).

Agency provides COVID-19 testing equipment

The International Atomic Energy Agency has dispatched equipment to more than 40 countries to enable them to rapidly detect the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the agency announced on April 1. The IAEA said that the action is part of its response to requests for support from about 90 member states in controlling the number of infections worldwide.

IAEA supports discharge of treated water at Daiichi

An International Atomic Energy Agency team of experts said in a review published on April 2 that the two options for the controlled disposal of treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are “technically feasible.” A Japanese advisory subcommittee outlined the two options—vapor release and discharge to the sea—for the water that is being stored at the plant following the 2011 accident.

Nuclear-derived techniques to tackle COVID-­19

The International Atomic Energy Agency plans to provide diagnostic kits, equipment, and training in nuclear-­derived detection techniques to countries asking for assistance in tackling the worldwide spread of the coronavirus that has caused the COVID-­19 pandemic. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi announced the plans on March 9 during his first formal address to the IAEA’s Board of Governors (see previous story).

“The IAEA is not a specialized health agency and has no role in controlling the disease,” Grossi said, “but we do have expertise and experience that help in detecting outbreaks of certain viral diseases and in diagnosing them.”

Nuclear watchdog leader rebukes Iran for lack of full cooperation

Rafael Mariano Grossi, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s director general, called on Iran on March 9 to cooperate immediately and fully with the IAEA and to provide prompt access to locations that it has refused to let agency inspectors visit. “The agency has identified a number of questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at three locations that have not been declared by Iran,” Grossi said in his first address to the IAEA’s Board of Governors since being named director general in December.

Feature Article

IAEA project on research reactor spent fuel management options

International Atomic Energy Agency member states operating or having previously operated a research reactor are responsible for the safe and sustainable management of associated radioactive waste, including research reactor spent nuclear fuel (RRSNF). Management includes storage and ultimate disposal of RRSNF, or the corresponding equivalent waste generated and returned following reprocessing of the spent fuel. Currently, there are 259 research reactors operating, planned, or under construction around the world [1]. An additional 147 research reactors are in extended or permanent shutdown, or under decommissioning.

One key challenge to developing general recommendations for RRSNF management options lies in the diversity of spent fuel types, locations, and national or regional circumstances, rather than mass or volume alone, particularly since typical RRSNF inventories are relatively small. Currently, many countries lack an effective long-term strategy for managing RRSNF. Many research reactor organizations know they have responsibility for the spent fuel, however, they do not know how to decide among multiple options for its management. A methodical review and compilation of technology options for RRSNF management is needed.