Advancing research capability in fuel cycle physics and chemistry is essential for maintaining and enhancing the performance and safety of nuclear activities. Technical expertise in this field is also vital to the design, construction and operation of new reactors and fuel cycles.
The NEA develops and disseminates scientific and technical knowledge in this field with its Working Party on Scientific Issues of Advanced Fuel Cycles (WPFC). The working party operates under the guidance of the NEA Nuclear Science Committee (NSC) to address scientific issues related to advanced nuclear fuel cycles, including fuel cycle scenarios, innovative fuels and materials, separation chemistry, waste disposal and coolant technologies.
Following the prioritisation of the NSC activities in 2020, the WPFC was reorganised with a new name and mandate that puts additional emphasis on the back-end of nuclear fuel cycles and advanced fuel cycles of innovative systems. The working party held its annual meeting on 8 June 2021 to review the status and progress of its activities in this context.
The working party aims at contributing to the industrialisation of fuel cycle technologies by assessing the technology readiness level (TRL) at each step of the fuel cycle, reducing uncertainty through benchmarking and data sharing, and improving safety through the optimisation of materials/components/design in both normal and off-normal conditions. It also supports data preservation through the development of new databases – such as the International Database for Extractant Ligands (IDEAL) – and the population of existing databases.
As part of the recent reforms, the working party is now organised with four expert groups: the Expert Group on Innovative Fuel Elements (EGIFE); the Expert Group on Fuel Recycling and Waste Technology (EGFRW); the Expert Group on Advanced Fuel Cycle Scenarios (EGAFCS); and the Expert Group on Reactor Coolant/Component Technology (EGCoCoT). As such, the WPFC covers all types of Generation IV reactors and other innovative concepts, with innovative fuel management options, such as hydro-/pyro- reprocessing, plutonium burning and/or multi-recycling, and minor actinide transmutation.
Additionally, the working party is developing a joint undertaking on the experimental demonstration of the fuel cycle closure in co-operation with the recently established NEA Task Force on Demonstration of Fuel Cycle Closure including Partitioning and Transmutation (P&T) towards Industrial Readiness by 2050 (TF-FCPT).
In the field of advanced fuel cycles and partitioning and transmutation, the working party is advancing in its preparations for the 16th Information Exchange Meeting on Actinide and Fission Product Partitioning and Transmutation (IEMPT-16), which is scheduled to take place on 26-30 June 2022 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The event will bring together experts from around the world to discuss state-of-the-art developments related to advanced nuclear fuel cycles, including scenarios studies, transmutation systems, modelling and data, advanced fuels for transmutation and multi-recycling, waste management, and recycling technologies.