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Irradiated Nuclear Fuel Intermediate Storage


A System Approach to the Analysis of Irradiated Nuclear Fuel Intermediate Storage

Tech Area / Field

  • FIR-FUC/Fuel Cycle/Fission Reactors
  • ENV-RWT/Radioactive Waste Treatment/Environment
  • INF-COM/High Performance Computing and Networking/Information and Communications
  • INS-DET/Detection Devices/Instrumentation

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
VNIITF, Russia, Chelyabinsk reg., Snezhinsk


  • Los Alamos National Laboratory / Nonproliferation and Security Technology Program, USA, NM, Los-Alamos\nSandia National Laboratories, USA, NM, Albuquerque\nLawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA, CA, Livermore

Project summary

The research area of activities under the present project was considered at the meeting of specialists from Russian and US weapons laboratories (VNIITF, VNIIEF, VNIIA and LLN, SNL and LANL) and was recognized as the most urgent for solving future problems of nuclear non-proliferation.

The basic objective of the project is to analyze the intermediate storage of spent nuclear fuel (including damaged spent nuclear fuel) and to develop a system approach to “dry” storage on the base of design-experimental techniques providing ecological safety and non-proliferation. As nuclear-power engineering is developed, of necessity is the construction of turnkey nuclear power plants in countries that do not possess for the present own nuclear materials but wherein the desire can be conceived for a variety of reasons to obtain them through the use of fuel available at nuclear power plants. During operation of these nuclear power plants, fuel handling will be implemented in the same way as in countries with well developed nuclear engineering. Using them as an example, it is appropriate to develop nuclear materials non-proliferation measures by analyzing all the life cycle of spent nuclear fuel, beginning with extraction from the reactor and ending with reprocessing or disposal. The Rosatom has approved a concept of transferring to the dry storage of spent nuclear fuel with its further concentration in a specialized storage facility at the Mining-Chemical Combine. Most probably, nuclear engineering all over the world will convert to the “dry” storage.

Spent nuclear fuel being stored in cooling ponds has several technical barriers of safety providing its protection and non-proliferation. This includes the fuel design, as well as pond water, radiation levels, and necessary production operations that can not be ignored and can change spontaneously. They can be changed only in consequence of purposeful unlawful actions. When transferring to the “dry” storage, the number of such barriers reduces and as a result the packed nuclear material of ~5…10-year cooling that contains uranium and accumulated plutonium and is ready for shipment will be stored at the surface at normal radiation conditions. Therefore it is necessary to create new barriers of safety instead of the lost ones, as in “dry” storage the only protection of spent nuclear fuel against unlawful acts remains that is caused by the shipment of a large dimension or heavy load being attached either to railroad or to large-scale highways. Equipment necessary to realize shipment can be received at the disposal by a body of men possessing sufficient financial resources. It is difficult but most likely possible to secrete the facts of shipment of such cargoes.

Simultaneously with this the fuel will be removed from the ponds and displaced. It will be cut during reloading to the cask and there will be a great amount of spillages (especially for the damaged fuel). All these items complicate the non-proliferation problems through possible errors of the personnel, the possibility of fuel exchange, and inaccuracies in accounting of spillages and wastes.

So a system approach based on modern technologies is required to analyze and realize the intermediate storage of irradiated fuel beginning with extraction from the reactor core and ending with reprocessing or disposal. Such approach along with the systems of physical protection, identification and control should be supplied with detectors of state, measurement procedures, as well as with systems of monitoring and information transfer. This will make possible not only to obtain the picture of fission materials storing, their technical state, and ecological and radiation safety, but also to develop measures of fuel protection and contraction to nuclear materials proliferation.

The basic results expected are as follows:

  • The spent nuclear fuel handling technologies will be analyzed and a system approach to the intermediate storage will be created to insure the safety and the non-proliferation of nuclear materials, allowing the remote international test and control. It will be considered, for example, for a spent nuclear fuel temporary dry storage site at the Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant.
  • Criteria of non-intervention in the process of spent nuclear fuel surface dry storage and a list of controlled variables ensuring the safety and non-proliferation will be developed and validated.
  • Technical solutions providing the system approach will be proposed and experimentally realized.


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