Specialists in reactor fuel management research
gather in Sofia for RRFM 2006
The 10th annual Research Reactor Fuel
Management conference (RRFM 2006)
took place in Sofia, from 30 April to 3 May. It was organised
by ENS, in collaboration with the Bulgarian Nuclear Society and
Bulgaria’s Institute for Nuclear Research and Nuclear Energy
(INRNE). Approximately 200 delegates from Europe, as well as countries
like the US, Argentina, Vietnam and China, met in the Bulgarian
capital to discuss the latest developments in this highly technical
field and to address some of the most pressing issues relating
reactor fuel management.
Among the key topics on the conference agenda
were fuel development, qualification, fabrication and licensing;
spent fuel-management back-end options, transportation of spent
fuel and reactor fuel safety. The keynote speakers included scientists,
consultants and senior management staff from organisations like
the IAEA, the US Department of Energy (DOE), the CEA (France)
COGEMA Logistics, the Russian Academy of Science and the Dutch
research centre, NRG.
RRFM 2006 kicked off with a
session devoted to discussions of a broad range of issues of general
interest to the research reactor community. Since the conference
took place in Sofia, the first presentation was a situation update
in Bulgaria. It featured a progress report on the reconstruction
of the IRT 2000 research reactor (a water-water pool-type reactor),
in Sofia. The IRT 2000 is a reactor used to produce electricity
for civil consumption. However, since it can never be totally
excluded that new or spent fuels is somehow illicitly misappropriated
for military usage several initiatives aimed at preventing such
a scenario from happening were launched. Among them are: the GTRI
(Global Threat Reduction Initiative), which oversees the RERTR
(Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors) Programme,
the foreign Research Reactor Spent Fuel Acceptance Programme,
the Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return Programme, the Global
Research Reactor Security Programme and the GAP (a programme filling
an existing gap) Materials Programme.
Under the GAP programme, GTRI works to develop
partnerships with government agencies and operators to identify,
remove and facilitate the final disposal of GAP materials. The
first product of this collaborative effort was the project carried
out by GTRI and AREVA to decide upon potential reprocessing at
AREVA’s specialised facilities in France.
During this first session, delegates were also
given an overview of global activities involving TRIGA reactors.
One special application that was outlined was the reconstruction
of the ENEA Triga RC-1 research reactor as part of the TRADE project
(an ADS feasibility system).
The second session covered what is traditionally
the hottest topic on the RRFM agenda, namely fuel development,
qualification and licensing. This subject is of fundamental importance
to any enrichment reduction initiative. The goal of research in
this area is the final qualification of a high-density UMo fuel
by the end of 2010 and the conversion of all reactors, including
the US domestic high-power reactors, by 2014.
This year, RRFM also heard about the very encouraging
results that have emerged from tests involving the addition of
silicon in the aluminum matrix of dispersed fuels. Another issue
analysed by delegates was the behaviour of UMo monolithic fuels
The third session was dedicated to spent fuel
management, back-end options and transportation. Special emphasis
was placed on the conditions required to ensure the safe long-term
storage of aluminum clad fuels under water. Finally, delegates
heard about the conditions and procedures that must be respected
to ensure the successful reprocessing of MTR fuels at the La Hague
plant, in France.
Session 4 focused on reactor operation, fuel
safety and core conversion projects that have been carried out
with the ITR-Sofia, FRM-II, HFR-Petten and HOR-Delft reactors.
Other projects in this area that were presented included a new
concept for a super high-flux reactor, the qualification of a
Chilean test fuel element and the safety evaluation of the IRIS
In parallel to Session 4, RRFM included for the
first time an extra session, entitled Innovative Methods
in Research Reactors.
Once again, RRFM, one of ENS’ flagship
annual technical conferences, proved to be a very successful platform
for the exchanges of views and data between professionals in the
nuclear energy sector. It is also a useful catalyst for discussion
about the major factors influencing the future direction of reactor
fuel management research.
For more information about RRFM - the full agenda,
speakers, copies of the presentations etc., please visit the RRFM
pages of the ENS website at: www.rrfm2006.org