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Non-nuclear energy

The ERA in Fission and Radiation Protection Research

Fission and radiation protection
Fusion
   

Co-operation in Europe on R&D in nuclear fission and radiation protection is well advanced especially in areas such as nuclear technologies, reactor safety issues, radioactive waste management, off-site emergency management and radiobiology. The further development of the European Research Area (ERA) in these fields will go a long way in helping to exploit the full potential of fission energy in a sustainable manner.

Background

Underground Laboratory, Mol © Courtesy of SCK/CEN
Underground Laboratory, Mol

© Courtesy of SCK/CEN
The nuclear fission area is characterised by a relatively small number of players. The manufacturing industry has over the last few years been strongly consolidated in Europe, and consists today of two main blocks, Areva and BNFL, that could deliver reactor systems and fuel. They also deliver fuel cycle services and other services. In addition, the number of operators of nuclear power plants is fairly low and consolidation has been seen over the last few years.

Radioactive waste management is normally the responsibility of one organisation per country. The bulk of the research is being performed by certain research institutes and the industry and, to a lesser extent, by universities and small consultant companies. Buyers of research are mainly the industry, safety authorities and their support organisations and the waste management organisations. France has the largest publicly funded research programme. Similar programmes in other countries, e.g. Germany and the UK, have been strongly diminished over the past few years.

There has for many years been a close co-operation between the various research players in the nuclear fission area through bilateral or multilateral agreements, including international co-operation, primarily through OECD/ NEA and the Euratom Framework Programme.

The situation in the area of radiation protection is different. Although there are a few large organisations that dominate the research activities, the number of research partners is large, with a strong involvement of smaller research establishments and universities.

ERA related activities in the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5)

A number of projects that have been launched in FP5 have a touch of ERA, in particular the thematic networks. Indeed, a part of the last FP5 call for proposals in 2001 was dedicated to proposals that would take steps towards the ERA.

Some examples of Networks with an ERA-flavour are:

  • FEUNMARR – a Europe-wide network to highlight the future needs for Material Test Reactors and identify safety-related issues encountered on research reactors and propose ways of strengthening safety.
  • VERSAFE – to carry out a review of safety research needs for VVER reactors and create a network of the operators of such reactors within the European Union. Also, studies related to Severe Accident Management, Plant Life Management and specific features of VVERs operating in the Central European countries are important elements of this network.
  • ATHENA – a thematic network on the ageing of nuclear materials creates, within the "enlarged" Europe, a structure for enhancing collaboration between European-funded R&– a thematic network on the ageing of nuclear materials creates, within the "enlarged" Europe, a structure for enhancing collaboration between European-funded R&D projects, national programmes, and TACIS/PHARE programmes. This network will contribute to improving the operational safety of nuclear power plants.
  • EURSAFE – a network to maintain the severe accident data used for the mitigation of severe accidents in existing and future reactor designs. It involves European partners who have produced the severe accident data used for the assessment of the performance of computer codes in nuclear reactor conditions.
  • NET-EXCEL – a co-operative network between 8 European waste management organisations to make a critical review of the present status of RTD on geological disposal in Europe and to develop a common and systematic basis for co-ordination of future research activities on waste disposal.
  • CROP – a cluster for co-operation among underground research laboratories for evaluating and developing concepts of final deep geological repositories for high level radioactive waste.
  • ACTINET – a Europe-wide network for advanced research on 'Actinide Sciences' for further development of the nuclear fission fuel cycle, including the safe disposal of nuclear waste. It will also consolidate and enhance the training and education of young scientists in this area in Europe.
  • COWAM – a European co-operative network for comparing the decision-making processes at local and regional community level in the siting of nuclear waste disposal facilities. The siting of a waste facility includes considerations that are not only determined by scientific or technical options, but also by genuine political considerations of the relevant communities.
  • ADOPT – a thematic network on partitioning and transmutation (P&T) intends to co-ordinate FP5 R&D activities on P&T. This network of European research organisations and industry aims to promote consistency between FP5 projects and national programmes, identify gaps in research work and maintain relations with international organisations and countries outside the EU involved in P&– a thematic network on partitioning and transmutation (P&T) intends to co-ordinate FP5 R&D activities on P&T. This network of European research organisations and industry aims to promote consistency between FP5 projects and national programmes, identify gaps in research work and maintain relations with international organisations and countries outside the EU involved in P&T.
  • TND –ND – a network for the exchange of information on the decommissioning of nuclear power plants. It involves research facilities, the decommissioning industry, regulators and the FP5 decommissioning projects.
  • SAMEN/MOSES – a cluster of the 9 FP5 off-site emergency management projects to get feedback and synergy between the projects and enhance their added value in achieving the overall goals of off-site emergency management.
  • NET-EULEP – a European radiobiology network specifically aimed at improving the state of radiation protection. The network will bring together laboratories concerned with the various biological aspects of radiation and dosimetry of internally deposited radionuclides.

In addition to this, many projects have been clustered together to increase the exchange of information and efficiency.

Other activities

In co-operation with the Member States, a number of activities have been undertaken that should help implement the ERA. Two activities are highlighted:

  • The mapping of the capacity of research centres and other research players in Europe;
  • The identification of topics in the various research areas that would need more co-ordination and for which the use of the new instruments of FP6 could be helpful.

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