Management of spent nuclear fuel and its waste

An important and inevitable by-product of nuclear energy production is the spent nuclear fuel that needs to be managed and handled in a safe, responsible and effective way. Spent fuel is highly radioactive and requires shielding and cooling. It contains components that are radioactive waste, but it also contains uranium and plutonium that can be reused as fuel in reactors. The spent fuel can thus be seen as a resource.

EASAC report "Management of spent nuclear fuel and its waste"
Image: European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC)

Uranium and plutonium can be separated from the waste in a reprocessing plant and reused, while the remaining high level waste will need to be disposed of. Recycling in this way is referred to as the closed fuel cycle. Alternatively the spent fuel in its entirety may be regarded as radioactive waste that will be disposed of. This is referred to as the open fuel cycle.

The report covers the following points: open fuel cycle, closed fuel cycle, factors influencing the choice of fuel cycle, decision points for determination and implementation of fuel management strategy, European cooperation, key considerations for a fuel cycle policy.

Edition / Volume: EASAC Policy Report, 23 / JRC Reference Report
Pages: 40
Standard identifier: 978-3-8047-3278-0