Shaping the NEA WISARD project: Back-end strategies for sustainable future nuclear systems

WISARD kick-off workshop

An increasing number of countries around the world recognise the critical role of nuclear energy for ensuring energy security and achieving net zero goals. This trend has sparked interest in advanced and small modular reactors due to their considerable potential across various applications. Furthermore, the renewed focus on nuclear energy underscores the need to strategise for the back end of the fuel cycle to support a responsible, long-term nuclear energy strategy.

Recognising these critical areas, the NEA is developing an ambitious Joint Project on Waste Integration for Small and Advanced Reactor Designs (WISARD) to explore the back-end implications of decisions made during the front-end and design phases. The project proposes a groundbreaking international effort to promptly assess compatibility with existing waste management solutions and pinpoint areas requiring future innovation to accommodate advanced and small modular reactors. WISARD is planned to start in early 2025, with a preparatory phase conducted throughout 2024 in collaboration with interested parties.

The kick-off workshop in Paris on 25-27 March 2024 convened 40 participants from 10 countries. Attendees included representatives form advanced reactor developers, government bodies, waste management organisations, regulators, research institutions and industry.

In his opening address, NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV, noted “We want to show stakeholders around the world that the sector is preparing for the future in a very responsible way. When questioned about the long-term implications of the new technologies and the management of spent fuel, we want to provide clear, solid, and technically concrete answers. And that is the purpose of WISARD: to begin the process of putting those answers together.

The workshop featured technical presentations, roundtable discussions, and breakout sessions. Sponsors of the preparatory phase and all interested parties had the opportunity to articulate their interests and expectations, exploring various advanced systems, fuels, materials, and fuel cycle options relevant to WISARD. During the breakout sessions, the participants engaged in comprehensive discussions on disposal, transportation, treatment and recycling, and storage, collaborating to identify needs, scenarios and focus areas for further consideration during the preparatory phase.

The insights gathered will guide a subsequent workshop scheduled for 6 May 2024 in Orlando, Florida, United States, along with virtual task meetings later in the year to delineate the detailed work programme and associated budget.

As preparations for WISARD progress, the NEA looks forward to welcoming new participants and encourages interested parties to inquire for further information on joining the process.

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