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.