IAEA awards nuclear scientists for research on fast reactors

Six nuclear scientists researching on innovative solutions for a promising future of low-carbon emissions were awarded for their efforts at the IAEA’s International Conference on Fast Reactors and Related Fuel Cycles: Next Generation Nuclear Systems for Sustainable Development (FR17), which concluded in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Five scientists, who were under the age of 35, were selected as winners of one part of FR17’s Young Generation Event (YGE).

This event attracted research proposals on fast reactors (FRs) or innovative nuclear technologies capable of contributing to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on energy and climate change.

One winner was chosen in a second part of the contest on leadership.

IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Waste Technology and Research Reactors director and co-chairman of the YGE Selection Committee Christophe Xerri said: “The winners demonstrated their enthusiasm and commitment to making a difference in developing nuclear technology as an effective tool for addressing climate change.

“Their papers proposed innovative scientific and engineering approaches to fast reactors and their fuel cycle, bringing concrete ideas to realise their vision.”

The winners of the Young Innovator challenge were Kristof Gladinez and Edouard Bissen of Belgium, Eirik Pettersen of Norway, and S Aravindan and Balija Sreenivasulu of India.

Luke Lebel of Canada won the Young Global Leader challenge.

This conference, which was held from 26-29 June, saw the participation of more than 600 experts from 29 countries and six international organisations.

"Nuclear is the only source of energy that has been able to decarbonise an economy on a big scale in history, so, for me, it’s about taking something that’s been proven to work and trying to push that further."

This is third IAEA event after conferences in Kyoto in 2009 and Paris in 2013. FR17 was hosted by the Government of the Russian Federation through state atomic energy corporation Rosatom.

Fast-neutron systems make use of fast neutrons that do not require a moderator to sustain the fission chain reaction. When neutrons operate in a closed fuel cycle, they can extract 60 to 70 times more energy from uranium than existing thermal reactors, thereby making them more efficient in fuel usage.

Besides having the potential to increase the sustainability of nuclear power, the systems can reduce the burden on geological repositories for nuclear waste.

Currently, the mature fast-reactor technology is the sodium-cooled FR. This technology is either in design, construction or operational phases in countries, including China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, the UK, and the US. Other coolants currently under the development stage include molten salt, lead, lead-bismuth and gas.

IAEA’s Fast Reactor Technology Development team nuclear engineer and YGE organiser Chirayu Batra said: “One idea of this competition was to have the young generation make compelling proposals so that the IAEA or another organisation could become interested in supporting further study on the topic.”

The conference discussed issues on reactor design concepts, safety and licensing, operations and decommissioning, fuels and fuel-cycle options, and coolants.


Image: YGE winners with IAEA staff including. Photo: courtesy of IAEA.