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Non-nuclear energy


Fission and radiation protection

Impact of Partitioning, Transmutation and Waste Reduction Technologies on the Final Nuclear Waste Disposal

Nuclear energy currently provides about 35% of electrical power in the EU and it is the most significant source of CO2 – free base-load electricity supply presently available. As an indigenous and dependable source of energy, nuclear energy contributes effectively to the EU’s independence and security of supply. The key issues in the sustainable development of nuclear energy are operational reactor safety and management of long-lived waste. Both of them are being addressed through continued work at the technical level though allied political and societal inputs are also required. Partitioning, transmutation and conditioning (P&T/C) and other waste reduction technologies could significantly reduce the burden associated with radioactive waste management and disposal. RED-IMPACT will assess the impact that P&T is likely to have on final geological repository requirements and the sustainability of nuclear energy.

Assessing impact of partitioning and transmutation

Visitors at low- and intermediate-level waste disposal site at El Cabril, Spain () © Courtesy: Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan
Visitors at low- and intermediate-level waste disposal site at El Cabril, Spain
© Courtesy: Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan
The objectives of RED-IMPACT project are to assess the effects of P&T on geological disposal and waste management, assess the economic, environmental and societal costs and benefits of P&T, and disseminate results of the study to various stakeholders (scientific, general public and decision-makers) and get their feedback during the study. The feedback will be used in iterations of the study and to refine the work to maximise the impact of this study on the implementation of the European Community’s waste management policy.

In particular, a set of nuclear fuel cycle models representing the options proposed in different European countries will be selected, as well as most of the variations in technological choices that may affect the possible impact of P&T with a significant magnitude. For each of these fuel cycles the details of the component parameters, including reactor and reprocessing plants, will be defined and the equilibrium fuels and the incoming and internal mass flows of nuclear materials will be evaluated.

Reviewing strategies, selecting scenarios

The RED-IMPACT project covers a number of research aspects. Waste management and transmutation strategies will be reviewed and several representative scenarios will be selected for in-depth impact studies. The feasibility of the industrial deployment of selected scenarios will be made and their impact on waste management studied. Assessment of waste streams, waste features, leach resistance, heat generation, reprocessing capability, etc will be studied for selected fuel cycles, and assessment will be made of the benefits and costs of P&T/C in advanced fuel cycles for waste management and geological disposal. The economic, environmental and societal assessment of fuel-cycle strategies will be performed, and synthesis and dissemination of results of the above studies will be made for stakeholders.

The consortium in the RED-IMPACT project is unique in that it has assembled the most relevant actors in this field and it has a very broad multi-disciplinary scientific and industrial background of partners, including waste management agencies and companies, nuclear industries and utilities, and research institutes and universities from across Europe. The project will be conducted in three iterative phases.

Demonstrating benefits, improving public perception

Three summarising project reports together with their dissemination efforts are major milestones at 15, 24 and 36 months and will be produced at the end of each iteration. The final report will comprise results of the reiteration of the most important parameters and a sensitivity analysis.

The completion of this project will provide a major advance in P&T/C research and waste management by producing the first comprehensive and coherent evaluation of the final benefits, difficulties and costs of the deployment of these technologies for nuclear waste management. It will create common ground to assess future nuclear waste repositories from the point of view of developing technologies that offer more diverse ways of treating nuclear waste through reduction of waste generation, waste conditioning and, partitioning and transmutation. Finally, the results of the project should help to ease major difficulties in public perception of the nuclear waste problems and will assess the potential of developing technologies to reduce the burden of the back end of the fuel cycle.

Improving safety for waste disposal, stimulating public dialogue

By creating a sound basis to assess future nuclear waste repositories from the point of view of developing technologies offering diverse ways of treating nuclear waste through reduction, conditioning and finally partitioning and transmutation, RED-IMPACT will provide proof of the long-term safety required to establish relevant standards for disposal and ease public acceptance of disposal options.

Moreover, the RED-IMPACT project has a clear potential to rationalise public debates concerning nuclear waste problems and effectively influence energy policy in EU, in particular the future of nuclear power. An ambitious programme for the dissemination of results, and plans to conduct an intensive dialogue with the general public and expert community, guarantee a significant contribution to policy developments.

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