European Commission inaugurates a laboratory to foster innovative solutions for nuclear waste management on 25 Sep

September 25, 2002

Brussels, 24 Sep 2002

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[...] Some of the long-lived elements contained in spent fuel from reactors maintain a high level of radiotoxicity over very long time periods. This is why many citizens are concerned about the long-term safety of nuclear waste repositories.

A new concept called "transmutation" aims to transform these long-lived elements into less harmful nuclides and would decrease their radiotoxicity significantly.

These long-lived radionuclides called "minor actinides" (elements like neptunium, americium and curium) need to be separated from the spent fuel and returned into a dedicated reactor for transmutation.

The Joint Research Centre's Institute for Transuranium Elements in Karlsruhe (Germany) is launching a new facility "the Minor Actinide Laboratory" which has been especially conceived to manufacture and characterise the most suitable materials for the transmutation of long-lived toxic elements.

The Minor Actinide Laboratory consists of a series of shielded cells, designed to protect the operators from the neutron and gamma radiation emitted by these radiotoxic elements. For the same reason the materials are handled with telemanipulators and extensive automation with remote control and robots has been included in the design. The major purpose of this laboratory is to bring the radiotoxic elements in a suitable matrix, which can then be safely introduced, in a research reactor for transmutation.

The construction of the Minor Actinide Laboratory has been funded by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission and costed about 10 million Euros. This laboratory will be one of the major infrastructures within the European Research Area contributing to several projects in the field of waste management.

On September 25, during the day of the inauguration of the Minor Actinide Laboratory, a `Memorandum of Understanding' will be signed with the CEA (Commissariat à L'Energie Atomique-France) in order to implement a European network in this field. [...]


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