The European Commission has announced proposals to spend ECU 1.1 billion on research into nuclear energy, as part of an ECU 16.3 billion Fifth Framework Programme (for 1998 to the year 2002) to keep the EU in step with technological advances worldwide. The plans will now be considered by the EU Ministers whose decision will be based largely on political needs.
A Commission report said that the objectives included: “to help ensure the safety of Europe’s nuclear facilities, the protection of workers and the public and the safe and effective management and final disposal of radioactive waste, to improve the competitiveness of Europe’s nuclear industry.” Studies into the nuclear fission fuel cycle would include those on:
• Waste minimisation.
• The potential use of chemical separation and transmutation.
• Testing and demonstrating the feasibility of deep disposal in underground laboratories.
• Assessing repository performance and the long term behaviour of repository components.
Those on operational safety at existing fission facilities would include projects on: • How ageing affects the integrity of structures and systems.
• Improved methods of inspection and monitoring to enhance safety and reduce occupational exposure.
• Modernisation of control systems.
• Man-machine interface Research on future systems would examine the use of:
• Smaller and simpler reactors, innovative reactor designs and waste management concepts.
• New fuels, including the better utilisation of fissile material.
• Optimisation of the fuel cycle.
• Enhanced passive safety features.
• Longer service life for materials and equipment, with less need for inspection and maintenance.
The Commission also wants to fund studies into the demonstration thermonuclear fusion reactor, especially those on developing tritium breeding blankets and on advanced low-activation and radiation resistant materials, and on radiation protection and environmental issues.