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Friday 19

October, 2018 8:11 PM



Aust spent nuclear fuel shipment explained

Aust spent nuclear fuel shipment explained

Australia will undertake its tenth transport mission of spent nuclear fuel assemblies out of the country for reprocessing.

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By AAP 01.06.2018 03:26 PM

AUSTRALIA'S SHIPMENT OF SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL ASSEMBLIES EXPLAINED

- WHAT ARE SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL ASSEMBLIES?

Fuel assemblies power Australia's multi-purpose OPAL reactor. When a fuel assembly has been used, or 'spent', it is removed and kept in a service pool inside the nuclear reactor.

- WHAT'S BEING SHIPPED?

A decade's worth of spent fuel assemblies will be transported to France for reprocessing.

- WHAT HAS BEEN PRODUCED BY OPAL REACTOR IN 10 YEARS

The reactor has powered the production of around 5.5 million nuclear medicines for Australians. These have been used to diagnose and treat heart, lung and skeletal conditions and cancers. In addition, the reactor has produced millions of medical doses for patients overseas, predominantly in the USA and Asia.

It has also been used for research into food allergies and clinical trials for neuroendocrine tumours.

On the industrial side, the reactor has powered the irradiation of more than 45 tonnes of silicon each year, which enables high powered solar farms, hybrid cars and wind farm technology.

- WHAT WILL HAPPEN DURING THE REPROCESSING?

Approximately 500 kilograms of low enriched uranium and 4.5 kilograms of plutonium are expected to be extracted from the spent fuel assemblies. They will be sent to overseas civil power and research programs. The remaining waste will be sent back to Australia, but the storage location has not yet been decided upon.

- WHY CAN'T THE SPENT FUEL BE REPROCESSED IN AUSTRALIA?

Australia produces very small volumes of spent fuel, which would make a domestic reprocessing facility uneconomic. France has the largest reprocessing facility in the world, with purpose built infrastructure.

Source: Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation

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