Targeting nuclear waste with a proton beam
Europe must find sustainable ways of managing high-level, long-lived radioactive waste. Transmuting or converting this material into less toxic and shorter-lived elements would help to reduce the problem. Such treatment would decrease the amount and heat load of these toxic waste materials. Being radioactive, they must be prevented from going into deep geological repositories and their lifespan has to be limited to manageable timescales. Transmutation requires a high-power proton accelerator. A new flexible fast spectrum research reactor, planned to be operational by 2023 in Mol (Belgium), is the multi-purpose hybrid research reactor for high-tech applications (MYRRHA). To demonstrate the feasibility of the reactor concept, the 'MYRRHA accelerator experiment, research and development programme' (MAX) project was established with EU funding. The MAX project will perform developments and experiments on accelerator test sections to increase confidence that the MYRRHA requirements will be fulfilled. In addition to these activities, dedicated studies and simulations will be carried out on general accelerator design and reliability issues. At its halfway stage, MAX is on schedule. Some initial experimental and simulation results have been produced for developing a new preliminary MYRRHA accelerator design. This design will be used as input for the fine optimisation work to be performed in the second half of the project. Demonstration of the accelerator-driven system (ADS) concept in MYRRHA will enable the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) to evaluate the viability of the transmutation approach. Finally, the MAX project should also impact all emerging and future accelerator projects featuring high-power proton beams. To stay at the forefront of nuclear reactor technology and related future developments, the EU must provide for the necessary research infrastructure and tools. As a cornerstone of the European Research Area (ERA) of Experimental Reactors, MYRRHA is moving Europe one step closer to achieving this.