This year, the ERDO Association and the United States Department of Energy (USDOE) are to enter into a formal arrangement to support and promote cooperative activities in a number of areas related to multinational solutions for the management of spent fuel and radioactive wastes. This follows several years of discussions, shared interest in international developments and mutual exchanges of information.

The first joint study project will be an evaluation of the impact of radioactive wastes from small modular reactors (SMRs) on multinational management solutions – for example, if they were to become part of the inventory of a multinational disposal facility. There are potentially broad technical and strategic issues involved in managing SMR fuels and wastes that have international dimensions and could affect multinational development activities. Given the extensive and rapidly growing worldwide interest in deployment of SMR technologies, the USDOE is interested in how capabilities for implementation of waste management solutions might affect the global safety and security of the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle.

Several ERDO Member countries are interested in the potential for inclusion of SMRs in their national nuclear power programmes, while other ERDO Members have no plans for nuclear power development. However, a new generation of SMR wastes could affect any plans for shared multinational solutions for all current and future ERDO Member countries, including small inventory, non-nuclear power nations that would benefit from the existence of a multinational repository (MNR).

The project, which begins in September 2022 and will run for around a year, will evaluate a wide range of technical, strategic, economic and planning issues associated with SMRs and their fuels and wastes, and will include an assessment of how a shared or a commercial MNR project could be impacted in terms of concept/design, economics and scheduling if a number of users were to require disposal of SMR fuels and wastes. It is expected that the outcome of the study will highlight key international policy issues for the USA and ERDO countries and is likely to point towards opportunities for harmonization of approaches towards SMR fuel management.

The project research and analysis components are funded directly by the USDOE with support and in-kind contributions of information and review activities provided by ERDO members. The results of the study will be published as project reports on both the USDOE and ERDO websites.