Advanced nuclear fuel cycle technologies can enhance the sustainability of nuclear energy by improving the effectiveness of natural resource utilisation and by reducing the volume and long-term radiotoxicity of high-level radioactive waste (HLW) while keeping the costs of electricity production economically viable.
The partitioning and transmutation (P&T) of minor actinides is one of the candidate technologies to help reduce the heat, radiotoxicity and volume of radioactive waste. While R&D in this field has been ongoing for a few decades, there is a consensus within the international community that a complete programme is needed in order to demonstrate the feasibility of a closed fuel cycle. Further efforts are particularly needed to explore minor actinide separation technologies, fuel fabrication, transmutation systems and fuel reprocessing, as well as logistical aspects such as transportation, cooling and handling.
In this context, the NEA recently established a new Task Force on Demonstration of Fuel Cycle Closure including Partitioning and Transmutation (P&T) towards Industrialisation by 2050 (TF-FCPT). The task force held its kick-off meeting virtually on 18 January 2021 with experts from Belgium, France, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Commission.
The main objective of this new NEA task force is to demonstrate the feasibility of closing the fuel cycle to enhance the sustainability of radioactive waste management by combining a better use of natural resources and a reduction of HLW radiotoxicity on the path towards a low-carbon energy future.
The task force will prepare a report on the technological, economic and societal aspects of existing and emerging advanced fuel cycles and P&T options. The report will identify R&D needs and gaps, as well as infrastructure needs towards the industrialisation of P&T by 2050. It will also give recommendations for a long-term experimental programme towards demonstrating the industrial feasibility of P&T.