Over the last few years, small modular reactors (SMRs) and advanced reactor technologies have presented an opportunity for generating low-carbon electricity to help mitigate the effects of climate change and provide sustainable energy solutions. To ensure that these technologies gain acceptance as a source of sustainable energy, a comprehensive evaluation of the fuel cycle is essential from early on in the design phase.
To assist with this process, the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) organised an international workshop on the Management of Spent Fuel, Radioactive Waste and Decommissioning in SMRs or Advanced Reactor Technologies on 7-10 November 2022 in Ottawa, Canada.
The workshop brought together over 250 participants – including 90 in-person – from 56 countries and three international organisations (the European Commission, International Atomic Energy Agency and Nuclear Energy Agency). The workshop benefitted from a broad range of representation from individual and industry stakeholders and government, research and education institutions.
Rumina Velshi, President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) delivered a keynote speech to the NEA workshop participants
The workshop was chaired by James McKinney, Chief Strategist at Integrated Waste Management, UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), who introduced the diverse range of keynote speakers and panellists throughout the event.
Elder Thomas Louttit, a member of the Moose Cree First Nation, opened the workshop. Learning to engage more effectively with community stakeholders was a key focus for workshop participants and he took the opportunity to share the fundamental Indigenous values that the nuclear community must take into account:
“Take only what you need and take care of the land.”
Elder Thomas Louttit, a member of the Moose Cree First Nation, was invited to officially open the workshop.
NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV used his opening address to focus on why this workshop is so vital at this present moment for the nuclear energy sector.
“With this new resurgence of interest in nuclear energy, the excitement is largely being generated by the advent of a large number of very new technologies. They represent a sea change that has positioned the nuclear sector to come into its own in a way that it has not in the past,” said Director-General Magwood.
“But these new technologies come with new questions. If we are going to move forward successfully, we have to have answers to these, and do so immediately. That is why this workshop exists and why it’s so important to have all of you here because we need to begin that process,” he added.
The workshop provided a neutral platform for radioactive waste management and decommissioning organisations, policy-making bodies, regulatory authorities and research-and-development institutions to discuss unique features of SMRs and advanced reactors, as well as associated design considerations, that should be examined early in the lifecycle.
The workshop in Ottawa, Canada brought together over 250 participants – including 90 in-person – from 56 countries and three international organisations.
This early implementation aims to devise effective and efficient waste management and decommissioning strategies. As a result, these strategies should address recent challenges and build trust and confidence with stakeholders which in turn will positively support the deployment of SMRs and advanced reactors.
With these objectives in mind, the three-day workshop covered key topics including:
- Key attributes of SMRs and advanced fuel types, as well as design considerations and implications for decommissioning and radioactive waste management;
- Technical and economic feasibility of reprocessing radioactive waste, as well as storage and transport of reprocessed fuel based on the reactor type;
- Licensing and regulatory requirements of spent fuel and waste management for SMRs and advanced reactor technologies;
- Operational and design optimisation related to decommissioning and radioactive waste management for SMRs and advanced reactor technologies;
- Operational feedback on management and disposal of existing waste streams;
- Key considerations for communities and Indigenous peoples.
Deputy Minister of Natural Resources Canada John Hannaford explained the SMR Action Plan and discussed recent investments by the Canadian government into SMRs and technology research.
John Hannaford, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources Canada, shared during his address why this subject is essential to Canada’s nuclear energy policy.
“Canada sees a significant potential to expand nuclear technologies to enhance the global net-zero position, address climate change and safeguard international energy security – that’s why Canada released the SMR Action Plan,” said Deputy Minister Hannaford.
“Canada’s Federal budget in 2022 invested more than 70 million dollars to support activities to address waste generated from SMRs and research related to technologies that are proposing to minimise waste in Canada,” he added.
The workshop included keynote addresses from a number of industry leaders, including President of Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency Łukasz Młynarkiewicz (pictured).
Participants also had the opportunity to hear the perspectives of a number of renowned industry leaders including Rumina Velshi, President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC); Kimberly Petry, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition, Office of Nuclear Energy, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); Dakota Kochie, Director Governmental Relations, Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO); Łukasz Młynarkiewicz, President, Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency (PAA); Daniel H. Dorman, Executive Director for Operations, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); and Patrick Landais, High Commissioner for the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA).
At the conclusion of the workshop, the group had identified opportunities for research and development. Discussions had also highlighted new possibilities for international collaboration in the areas of fuel design, understanding spent nuclear fuel characteristics, reprocessing options, material selection, acceptability of existing packages for storing, transporting, and final disposal of spent nuclear fuels. A comprehensive outcome of the workshop along with recommended paths forward will be developed over the coming months.
For additional information on the workshop content please visit here.