The facilities associated with nuclear fuel from mining to fabrication to post-irradiation management have some specific safety concerns that are different from those of nuclear reactors.
Since the early 1990s, the NEA has co-operated with the IAEA on maintaining a reporting system and database for safety of fuel cycle facilities – Fuel Incident and Notification and Analyses System (FINAS). Maintaining FINAS and co-operating on associated research activities was originally part of the more general activities on operating experience by the Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations (CSNI). Recognising the unique aspects of safety of fuel cycle facilities, a separate Working Group on Fuel Cycle Facilities (WGFCS) was established in the early 2000s. WGFCS focusses on the safety aspects associated with uranium processing and enrichment; fuel fabrication and storage; and spent fuel storage and reprocessing. Other spent fuel and high-level waste management issues are co-ordinated by the Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC).
The Senior Expert Group on Safety Research Opportunities Post-Fukushima (SAREF) was established at the June 2013 CSNI meeting to identify research activities to address safety research knowledge gaps related to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, which would also support safe and timely decommissioning in Japan.
The Senior Expert Group on Safety Research / Support Facilities for Existing and Advanced Reactors 2 (SESAR/SFEAR2) is responsible for reviewing and updating the previous SESAR assessments of research facilities required to support the safety of nuclear installations. The group shall recommend actions to be taken by the Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations (CSNI) and its member countries to facilitate broader use and sustained operation of essential research facilities required to support nuclear safety.
The objective of the Working Group on Fuel Cycle Safety (WGFCS) is to advance the understanding of relevant aspects of nuclear fuel cycle safety, including: uranium mining and milling; uranium refining and conversion to uranium hexafluoride; uranium enrichment; fuel fabrication and storage (including MOX fuel); spent fuel storage; spent fuel reprocessing; decommissioning of nuclear facilities; radioactive waste management and disposal options (including for spent fuel) and the research and demonstration facilities that support these activities.