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: fast breeders will require higher operating temperatures and larger irradiation doses. This puts newconstraints on the structural materials, and especially on fuel claddings, for which the appropriate choice of materials isnot yet obvious. In this context, it is important to combine qualiﬁcation of potential materials together with fundamentalstudies on model materials to get a better understanding of the scientiﬁc bottlenecks;
: The actinides are the most embarrassing waste. Some of them are relatively short lived, but veryactive (Am 241, Cu 244
) and have consequences for storage strategy and for the density of stacking in the disposal site.Some of them (Np 237) have a very long life time, far beyond any engineering project duration, and can be dealt withonly, in the absence of present-day transmutation, via long-sighted cooling duration before a deep geological disposal.The technical problems for nuclear waste storage are basically solved by the deep geological storage strategy. Theredundancy of the various barriers can still be improved. The main remaining problem is the proof of the very long term
of the safety and security of all the system for the future populations. The potential for transmutationsis still a research topic open issue, scientiﬁcally developed at the laboratory level and only for sample irradiation forthe various actinides (but useful mainly for americium), and it remains to be seen if it is industrially viable in acomprehensive industrial system of operation.
The lessons of the recent crisis
The time schedule
: a speciﬁcity of a nuclear system is the wide range of time scales involved, from the time scale of theplant operating to the time scale of waste storage. The time scale of the post accident situation appears here, and alsothe delay necessary for the reinvestment of the region damaged by the accident;
Short and medium term implication:
It is absolutely necessary to maintain a very accurate surveillance, implying theappropriate equipment and well-trained people able to intervene as fast as possible, during the 8 years of construction,the 50 years of exploitation, the 50 years of cooling, and the 50 years of a storage state. It is absolutely crucial tounderstand than safety in Nuclear energy is a long term commitment;
: Resilience of nuclear systems requires one to decouple as far as possible the nuclearissues (such as beta disintegration), the thermo-hydraulic issues (such as heat extraction), and the chemical issues (suchas the reactivity of the coolant). It is also crucial to decouple the ﬁssion power in reactors from the residual power instored fuel;
: the fuel cycle appears as the key element in the problem, both for proliferation issues, and forsafety issues. Storage has to be well-separated from energy production. Both storage and waste disposal sites will have,sooner or later, to be internationally controlled. The central actor of this cycle is plutonium, either as a waste in thecurrent generation, in the countries which do not reprocess their used fuel elements, or as a fuel in the fast breeders:a “plutonium plan” addressing its speciﬁc problems is needed, ﬁrst in France, then at some convenient internationallevel (it already exists in the United Kingdom).
The analysis proposed in this article leads to the following recommendations, based upon the current status of scientiﬁcand engineering knowledge:
There is a need for a continuous watch
over of the complete electronuclear installation (including the reactor and thestorage pools). This watch has to be performed by highly competent teams, ready to intervene at any moment, and theprogram should be operative not only during the operation of the plant, but also after its stopping, and during 50 to100 years after the end of operation, whatever the reason for stopping the plant;
between two very different concepts is meaningless, but it is reliable in “incremental design”. As such,the EPR, being an evolution of the current PWR, is the best design in terms of safety
A global view is key to provide a sound basis for rational decisions
: in particular, the overall fuel cycle is an issue which hasto be decided by the citizen and his elected representatives;
Reducing plutonium stocks should be seen as a priority.
Using plutonium in fast breeders is today an attractive solution,since it deals in a coherent way both with the eﬃcient use of resources, and with the management of the back-end of the cycle;
Eﬃciency requires concentration of effort
: the choice made in the 1970s of a single reactor model, a single utility user, asingle power plant constructor and a single powerful research lab is to be conﬁrmed as a key asset in the developmentof the future generation of nuclear reactors.
We must stress that the most radioactive actinide during 80 years after removal from irradiation is plutonium 241, and the second most radioactiveactinide is plutonium 238 during the ﬁrst 20 years after removal from irradiation (Document 58, p. 245 of ). It is only after these 80 years of radioactivedecay that Am 241 becomes the most radioactive part among the actinides. For the curium 244, the drawback is not heat, but the emission of neutrons byspontaneous ﬁssion, and then the necessary radioprotection of workers.