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Fifth Framework Programme - External Advisory Groups

EURATOM FIFTH FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME

EXTERNAL ADVISORY GROUP-FISSION (EAG-FISSION)

"Research and Training Programme (Euratom) in the Field of Nuclear Energy (1998 to 2002)"

EAG-FISSION-00/1-16; 06.04.2000

Advice on the Review of the Work Programme

This report is also available as PDF-file: fission2.pdf (24 Kb)

This advice was produced by the External Advisory Group-Fission (EAG-FISSION) for the Research Directorate General and represents the Group's views on this matter. These views have not been adopted or in any way approved by the Commission and should not be relied upon as a statement of the Commission's or the Research DG's views. The European Commission does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this advice, nor does it accept responsibility for any use made thereof.

Introduction

In preparation for the next calls for proposals the EAG-FISSION has been requested by the Commission to advise it on the way in which the non-fusion related parts of the work programme for the "Research and Training Programme in the Field of Nuclear Energy (1998 to 2002)" should be updated in order to meet programme objectives. In the following advice the EAG has taken the following factors into account:

  • The outcome of the first calls for proposals and the coverage of the work programmes' objectives by the priority listed proposals.
  • The responses of the technical community to the first calls, in particular to new or innovative aspects of the work programme.
  • Present budget expectations and the balance of funding between different sub-areas.
  • Recent S&T developments in the field.
  • Recent socio-economic and political developments, in particular to the needs of accession countries.

Meetings

The group considered this advice at its meeting on the 9 th March 2000. Background material was provided in the form of a Commission paper.

ADVICE

General Advice

  • The upcoming call should be more targeted so as to ensure proposals are more in line with the programme objectives.
  • Some areas should be closed 1 so as to allow greater concentration on others considered more relevant to programme objectives. Areas to be closed are identified in the detailed advice to follow.
  • Some areas that had a disappointing response in the first calls should not be pursued "at all costs" in the second call. If the area were considered vital to programme objectives, then some proactive effort by Commission Staff would be justified. Specific examples are discussed below.
  • The objectives of "training" should be better formulated and a clearer strategy developed on how they are to be achieved in order to improve the poor response to this area of the programme. For the longer term, the needs for training at a European level need to be better identified.
  • Some action is needed by the Commission to involve the associated countries of Central and Eastern Europe. It is especially important to include the relevant Research Institutes of these countries and to take into account the work being done under the PHARE assistance programme. It may be more efficient to focus concerted actions in this area, particularly for studies and assessments preparatory to potential future joint research efforts.
  • Past experience has shown the value of concerted actions. In general, therefore, we would encourage Commission Staff to use this vehicle more than previously, especially to improve the usefulness and added value of research already completed.
  • An overarching view of the use and meaning of risk and risk assessment and management methods is needed to establish a common approach and usage across the whole programme. These should co-ordinate and combine the various uses of risk assessment and management methodology in different areas, and especially in the public debate.
  • The lack of proposals for support for large-scale facilities was in part a consequence of unfamiliarity with this mechanism; interest in this area needs to be stimulated and clearer guidance provided on its scope and how it is implemented.
  • Networking to achieve synergy with national programmes is of increasing importance and should be further stimulated in key strategic areas of the programme.

Specific Advice by Key Action.

1. Operational Safety of Existing Installations.

The response to the first call indicated a strong interest in plant life management issues, which is a satisfactory situation. The detailed advice for the sub-topics in this Key Action follows.

Plant Life Extension and Management (PLEM).

Although potentially far "downstream 2" (i.e. of more relevance to industrial applications), the area of PLEM has been widely supported as a potentially significant contributor to European Added Value. Therefore we believe that the current level of funding for this area is justified as long as the topics chosen highlight European Added Value for all of the interested players. Topics such as re-embrittlement, with its focus on VVER reactors (see below), the ageing of non-metallic components and thermal fatigue (including loading as well as materials effects) all fall within this category. Also, new approaches using risk based inspection and management techniques are worth following up because of their potential for increased competitiveness. Efforts to develop thematic networks have to be shown to be wanted by the players since there is already a well-established set of networks in this area.

Although not specifically PLEM, we believe that work aimed at the development of an understanding of safety culture and the organisation of management and safety is an important topic for the next calls. Some effort is needed to differentiate approaches so those specific and relevant programmes can be developed according to need.

Severe Accident Management.

Since most of the available funding in this area was utilised in the first selections, we do not believe that there is much scope for additional work in the second call. There should be no priority given to transferring funds in to the area. The group supports the setting up of thematic network in this area.

VVER Operational Safety Issues.

There is a need to highlight those issues of operational safety, which are of particular relevance to the VVER type of reactors operated by some of the candidate countries. Topics such as re-embrittlement have already been mentioned, and aspects of Accident Management aimed at the special needs of these reactors should be given priority in the next calls.

PHEBUS FP.

This area should not be subject to further change.

Evolutionary Concepts.

Although this area has utilised only about 5 out of 9+/-2 MEURO allocated in the first call, we believe that virtually all aspects of this work should be taken up by those parts of the Industry involved (note our comments in footnote 2). The development of evolutionary design measures for preventing severe accidents and for improving the reliability and performance of current and future water-cooled reactors should be encouraged.

2. Safety of the Fuel Cycle.

Radioactive Waste Management and Disposal.

It is unfortunate that this area was much reduced from FP4 to FP5 since many EU Member States have an interest in optimising radioactive waste management and disposal, and it is of particular interest to the associated CEEC States. There is considerable EU added value here. However, it is recognised that there are considerable variations in geological sites and that a single "EU" strategy may not be appropriate. Therefore we believe that a focus on comparisons of different strategies and concepts is necessary when considering options for long-term interim storage or deep disposal with possibilities to retrieve waste. Also of importance for the upcoming calls are (in priority order):

  • Repository technology; repository monitoring and site characterisation methodology.
  • Long term behaviour of repository systems; assessment of long term barrier function, the interface between near field and far field and the behaviour of spent fuel.
  • Public attitudes and involvement; due consideration needs to be given to activities underway elsewhere.
  • Performance assessment of repository systems.

Additionally, the EAG proposes that the area of quality assurance and quality control of waste packages be closed for the reminder of FP5.

Partitioning and Transmutation.

Some areas were well covered in the first call, such as basic studies and partitioning. The EAG took note that all projects concerning preliminary design of an ADS-system were not selected after the first call. The argument of the Commission was that there is a need to focus this research, and to make sure that a full systems approach is made, taking all parts of the system into account.

For the second call the following priorities are thus set:

  • Preliminary engineering design studies which are needed to identify the relevant R&D items for an ADS demonstrator. This area could also include strategy studies.
  • Technical support studies, primarily concerning the coupling between the spallation lead target and an accelerator, and concerning experimental work on fuels and targets.
  • It should also be considered whether further studies on partitioning should be included.

Decommissioning.

It is recognised that much of the necessary technical and engineering development work has been done. Therefore, it is appropriate for future work to be on a small scale and to be focussed on making existing expertise and experience more widely available. This is especially true in the CEEC.

3. Safety and Efficiency of Future Systems.

There is the need to keep under review current technical developments to give a continuously relevant view of available options. We therefore believe that priority should be given to the following.

  • HTRs. This is both to complement R&D activities in this field, specifically for items not covered in the first call (e.g. power conversion systems and system analysis) and to cover international developments.
  • State of the art studies of other applications of nuclear power (heat production, desalination, hydrogen production, for example) via concerted actions to maintain a current understanding of developments.
  • Studies seeking to link potential innovative design aspects, licensability and public acceptability.

4. Radiation Protection (Key Action).

The overall response to this area of the programme was disappointing. Some of the priority areas did not even receive a single proposal. Further reflection is needed on the steps necessary to improve the situation. We offer the following advice on the specific sub areas.

  • Risk assessment and governance. All priorities in this sub-area should be retained subject to further analysis. There is however a clear need to be more explicit in the wording, not least with the aim to address more socio-economically oriented research.
  • Monitoring and assessment of occupational exposure. Whilst the objectives and priorities set out in the work programme remain important and valid, and should therefore remain, it is important to be more prescriptive in the wording of the next calls.
  • Off-site emergency management. Focus on filling in some gaps left from the first call under "decision support". In environmental monitoring, emphasis should be given to monitoring strategies.
  • Restoration and long term management of contaminated environments. The sub-area covering strategies should be closed. The question of what are the most appropriate technologies and their potential for application for large area restoration need further investigation by the Commission Staff before a decision is made as to what should be in the work programme.

5. Generic Research on Radiological Sciences.

It is clear that the contributions made by the EU funded generic research in this area have been significant and that good EU added value has been achieved.

The specific sub-areas covered are discussed below.

  • Radiation protection and Health. This is an area currently enjoying a very active period. All the sub-topics remain important, but because of pressure on available funds, the EAG encourages the Commission Staff to consult external expertise to focus the future activities in this research area and to consult with other DG's. RTD on radiation injury should remain as a priority.
  • Environmental transfer of radioactive material. Given the level of residual resources for this area, its scope should be radically reduced in subsequent calls. The EAG recommended that semi-natural ecosystems and the marine environment should be the focus of future calls.
  • Industrial and Medical Uses and natural sources of radiation. The focus should be on the exposure to and management of naturally occurring radioactive materials in the context of the new Basic Safety Standards. Industrial and Medical uses should be closed out for now 3.
  • Internal and external dosimetry. On present evidence it would be best to close this area out for the remainder of FP5 3.

6. Training.

This area is highlighted in the general advice. The response to previous calls has been disappointing and ad hoc. With a view to improving matters, the needs for training at a European level should be better identified, the objectives of the programme better formulated and a clearer strategy developed on how they are to be achieved. The Commission needs to be more pro-active in stimulating the uptake of grants for East Europeans and in promoting research networks. The three main elements of this programme area (fellowships, special training courses and supplementary training schemes) should remain open in all subsequent calls; demand is expected to be greatest for special training courses.

7. Support for Research Infrastructure.

Support for access to large-scale facilities had not featured in previous Euratom programmes. A lack of familiarity within the nuclear research community of this mechanism and its mode of implementation was probably the main contributor to the lack of proposals in this area. The Commission should be more pro-active in stimulating interest in this important area and in providing clearer guidance on its scope and the modalities for implementation. Funds could be used to reinforce international activities already underway in this area.

8. Networks.

Networking is an increasingly important part of the programme, in particular to achieve synergy with national programmes. The Commission should be more pro-active in stimulating the establishment of networks in a number of key strategic areas.


Footnotes

1. 'Closed' in this context applies only to the rest of the calls for FP5. It should not be interpreted as applying to research needs in the longer term.

2. Because the objectives of FP5 have been couched in terms of 'problem solving' and contributions to European Added Value, it is inevitable that the research will be moved further towards applications. It is a matter of judgement, therefore, as when the problem solving is so removed from research that it should be the responsibility of Industry to take over the funding. This issue permeates much of this research area (except the generic research in radiation protection) and so the EAG comments when we believe it becomes an important issue.

3. 'Closed' in this context applies only to the rest of the calls for FP5. It should not be interpreted as applying to research needs in the longer term.

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External Advisory Groups | Fifth Framework Programme | 16.05.2000

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