IAEA International Conference on the Management of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors: Meeting the Moment

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) convened its highly anticipated International Conference on the Management of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors: Meeting the Moment from 10 - 14 June 2024. The event, held in the picturesque capital of Austria, brought together global experts, policymakers, and industry leaders to address the pressing challenges and advancements in the management of spent nuclear fuel.

Since 1987, this pivotal conference has been held approximately every four years. This year’s gathering emphasised national strategies for managing spent fuel, incorporating advanced technologies such as small modular reactors (SMRs), and explored how these strategies bolster the expanded role of nuclear power in the global energy landscape.

Out of the world’s 430,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel, 30 percent has already undergone reprocessing for recycling. The remaining fuel is securely stored in either wet or dry storage systems, awaiting eventual disposal in an underground repository or further recycling efforts.

“Spent nuclear fuel has been successfully managed for many decades, and while the established practices are safe and effective, it is important for the nuclear power community to be adaptive as the energy landscape evolves.

It is vital that all countries with spent fuel management responsibilities, current and future, proactively meet the moment, and this conference represents a great opportunity to share lessons learned and discuss innovative techniques as well as their potential integration in the current programmes.”
Amparo Gonzalez Espartero IAEA’s Technical Lead for Spent Fuel Management and Co-Scientific Secretary of the conference.

The conference commenced with opening remarks from IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, followed by an award ceremony celebrating the achievements of young professionals in the field. In his address, Grossi underscored the necessity for the involvement of all stakeholders, including industry bodies like the World Nuclear Transport Institute (WNTI), in addressing the challenges of spent fuel management. During the opening address, WNTI Board Member, Pete Buchan, emphasised the crucial role of transportation in spent fuel management and elaborated on WNTI’s commitment to upholding the highest standards of safety and security in global nuclear transport. Additionally, Yukio Okabe, a WNTI Engineering and Emergency Preparedness Specialist, contributed to the conference as a member of the preparation committee, to support the operations.

Watch Pete Buchan representing WNTI in the Opening Address at 1:01.31

The conference featured a series of technical sessions, panel discussions, and workshops, fostering an exchange of knowledge and experiences among international stakeholders. Topics covered included advancements in storage technologies, transportation safety protocols, and long-term disposal solutions for spent nuclear fuel.

Participants expressed optimism about the future of spent fuel management, acknowledging the strides made in technology and regulatory frameworks. The conference served as a crucial platform for forging international partnerships and reinforcing the global commitment to nuclear safety and sustainability.

As the conference concluded, attendees echoed a collective call for continued research, development, and cooperation to meet the growing demands and complexities of nuclear fuel management. The IAEA reaffirmed its dedication to supporting member states in implementing effective and safe spent fuel management strategies, marking a successful and forward-looking event in Vienna.

The proceedings and insights from this significant event will be made available on the IAEA website shortly.

Watch all sessions from the IAEA International Conference on the Management of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors: Meeting the Moment at the link