The Nuclear Dream: the Perfect Management of Nuclear Waste

A one-stop-shop for spent fuel management is one way to describe Russia’s Mining and Chemical Complex (MCC) near Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. The complex is designed to handle spent fuel at its different stages, all at one site. In many countries, these activities — involving fuel that is no longer useful but still very radioactive — are performed at separate facilities that are, in some cases, up to hundreds of kilometers apart. By taking an integrated approach, Russia’s national strategy for spent fuel management aims to improve efficiency, cut costs and optimize safety and security….

Spent fuel is typically transported several times, starting from where it was used, such as at a nuclear power plant, and then between facilities at different sites for storage, reprocessing, fabrication or disposal. The movement of nuclear material requires additional safety and security measures….By bringing several management processes, namely wet and dry storing, reprocessing and new fuel fabrication into one MCC site, we minize the risks of transport of nuclear materials,” said Petr Gavrilov, Director General of MCC, part of Rosatom….

For instance, the MCC will handle the reprocessing of a new type of uranium– plutonium fuel called REMIX. This fuel has been developed as part of the integrated approach to minimizing spent fuel storage times and reducing the amount of radioactive waste for disposal. Unlike other types of nuclear fuels for light water reactors, REMIX can be recycled at today’s nuclear power plants as many as seven times, which means it can provide enough nuclear fuel to cover the entire lifespan of a light water reactor at a power plant.

In 2018, nuclear power accounted for 18.4% of the energy production in Russia. Every year, the country produces around 700 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel from its nuclear power plants, research reactors and submarines. With the country’s plans to expand its nuclear industry, including the large-scale implementation of fast reactors, the MCC’s integrated system is expected to help minimize the impact of that increase.

Excerpts from Nicole Jawerth, Under One Roof: Russia’s Integrated Strategy for Spent Fuel Management,  IAEA Bulletin, July 2019

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