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CHANCE: Characterisation of conditioned nuclear waste for its safe disposal in Europe

The CHANCE project aims to establish a comprehensive understanding of current characterisation methods and quality control schemes for conditioned radioactive waste in Europe. Furthermore, CHANCE will develop, test and validate already-identified and novel techniques in order to improve the characterisation of conditioned radioactive waste.

Overview

Project Dates: 1/06/2017 – 31/05/2021

Project Status: Ongoing

Project Website: www.chance-h2020.eu

Safe interim storage and final disposal of radioactive waste requires effective characterisation and quality control of the waste.  Therefore, the CHANCE project aims to address the specific and complex issue of the characterisation of conditioned radioactive waste (CRW) by means of non-destructive analytical (NDA) techniques and methodologies.  Characterisation issues within CHANCE encompass both physico-chemical characterisation and radiological characterisation.

The CHANCE project will establish a comprehensive understanding of current characterisation methods and quality control schemes for conditioned radioactive waste in Europe.  Furthermore, CHANCE will develop, test and validate already-identified and novel techniques that will undoubtedly improve the characterisation of CRW.  These techniques include:

  • calorimetry as an innovative non-destructive technique to reduce uncertainties on the inventory of radionuclides;
  • muon tomography to address the specific issue of non-destructive control of the content of large volume nuclear waste;
  • Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy (CRDS) as an innovative technique to characterise outgassing of radioactive waste.

One of the project’s key tasks will be dedicated to the identification of links and overlaps between waste acceptance criteria and actual waste characterisation technologies available, in order to identify specific, as yet unsolved, methodology issues and technology gaps.

Input from “end users” (mainly waste management organisations and waste producers) on methods of CRW characterisation is critical to the success of CHANCE.  Therefore, a dedicated End-Users Group will be established within CHANCE in order to represent and promote the interests and requirements of end-users.

The activities performed and the results obtained within CHANCE will be integrated and disseminated both between the partners and the whole European community involved in radioactive waste management.  Dissemination activities such as a Topical Day and a training course are foreseen to share the project results with the stakeholders.

CHANCE is a collaborative project funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 Framework.  The project is implemented by a consortium with 12 project partners from eight countries (Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania and the UK).

Objective

The CHANCE project aims to address the specific issue of the characterisation of conditioned radioactive waste (CRW).  The characterisation of fully or partly conditioned radioactive waste is a specific issue because unlike for raw waste, its characterisation is more complex and needs specific non-destructive techniques and methodologies.  There are different and varying reasons for this:

  • conditioned waste may no longer be in its initial form (e.g. due to incineration);
  • conditioned waste is typically embedded or surrounded by a matrix;
  • conditioned waste may contain wastes coming from different primary sources and therefore the radiological spectrum might become more complex.

Characterisation issues within CHANCE encompass both physico-chemical characterisation and radiological characterisation.  The experimental focus within CHANCE is radioactive waste held in large volume compounds potentially containing hidden components, spent fuel held in large volume storage containers, problematic and legacy waste, specific waste arising from repair or maintenance, decommissioning/dismantling waste and radioactive waste destined for geological disposal.

The first objective of CHANCE is to establish at the European level a comprehensive understanding of current conditioned radioactive waste characterisation and quality control schemes across the variety of different national radioactive waste management programmes, based on inputs from end-users such as waste management organisations and storage operators.  CHANCE will focus on the following waste forms (using the IAEA classification):

  • Very Low Level Waste (VLLW);
  • Low Level Waste (LLW);
  • Intermediate Level Waste (ILW);
  • High Level Waste (HLW).

Very short-lived waste and Exempt Waste are beyond the scope of CHANCE as these kinds of waste are not destined for radioactive waste disposal.  The establishment of a “waste characterisation catalogue” will allow current short-comings of state-of-the-art characterisation of conditioned radioactive waste to be identified.

The second objective of CHANCE is to further develop, test and validate techniques already identified that will undoubtedly improve the characterisation of conditioned radioactive waste, namely those that cannot easily be dealt with using conventional methods.

Input from “end users” (mainly waste management organisations and waste producers) on methods of conditioned radioactive waste characterisation is critical to the success of CHANCE.  Therefore, a dedicated End-Users Group will be established within CHANCE in order to represent and promote the interests and requirements of end-users.  One of the project’s key tasks will be dedicated to the identification of links and overlaps between waste acceptance criteria and actual waste characterisation technologies available, in order to identify specific, as yet unsolved, methodology issues and technology gaps.

CHANCE’s R&D programme consists of the testing and evaluation of the performance of three innovative characterisation techniques that are complementary and supplementary to current techniques for the non-destructive assay of radioactive waste, specifically:

  • Calorimetry as an innovative non-destructive technique to reduce uncertainties on the inventory of radionuclides (RN), namely from hidden RN-compounds with a weak gamma signal.
  • Muon Tomography to address the specific issue of the non-destructive interrogation of the content of large volume RW.
  • Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy as an innovative technique to characterize outgassing of RW at a very low detection level.