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Towards joint European effort in area of nuclear materials

This action should explore the possibility of establishing in the future a joint European programme in area of nuclear materials and nuclear fuels. Readiness of the Member States for the joint European effort has to be analysed. Complementarity of research effort for current and future innovative nuclear systems has to be assured. The Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) for nuclear materials and nuclear fuels covering short-to-medium term period, i.e. for the period up to 15-20 years, has to be one of the project’s deliverables. The SRA should take into account different scenarios of long-term operation of the current fleet of the reactors as well as possible scenarios of deploying advanced nuclear systems in Europe. Research on fission reactor materials, including cladding, core structures, pressure vessels, coolant interactions with materials, moderator and control components as well as on innovative nuclear fuels should be included in the SRA. The SRA has to include recommendations regarding standardisation within the EU of the testing procedures, their handling, approach to the relevant design codes. The availability of the respective infrastructure necessary to perform successfully the R&D activities should be analysed. Relation with fusion materials has to be clearly presented. Knowledge management plan relevant for domain, including data management plan, has to be introduced.

The identified research areas could also serve as a basis for further actions supported by other priorities of EU Horizon 2020 programme and its successor, relevant for industrial technologies, to maximise synergies and impact.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the Euratom Programme up to EUR 1.1 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Advanced materials are the very basis of the technological development and industrial innovation. In domain of the nuclear materials, qualification of existing materials for the conditions of nuclear installations, their further improvement as well as development of new materials plays a crucial role in assuring the highest safety standards for these installations. Whether it is long-term operation of the existing NPP fleet, design of innovative nuclear systems, proper radioactive waste management, further improvement in radiation protection or other possible applications of the radioactive matter – the way forward always includes the materials science aspect.

The research effort to proceed ahead in this area is very resource-intensive and extremely costly. On the other hand, there is a limited number of the laboratories and industrial players in Europe, which can properly handle R&D of the nuclear materials. As a logical sequence of the above factors, several year ago Euratom in frame of European Energy Research Alliance (EERA)[[ ]] instigated creation of EERA Joint Programme on Nuclear Materials (JPNM)[[]]. EERA JPNM is currently involving all the major European players having more than 50 participants from 17 European countries. EERA JPNM has six subprograms, four of which deal with materials for the innovative nuclear systems and two with the development of the advanced nuclear fuels. On the other hand, EU-based NUGENIA association[[]], which includes more than 100 participants worldwide and aims to be a research framework for Gen II & III fission technologies, deals, among other subjects, with the variety of the material science issues needed to assure safe, competitive and reliable exploitation of the current and upcoming nuclear reactors fleet.

In addition to nuclear materials, several European countries, whether nuclear, non-nuclear or in the nuclear phasing-out process, are supporting nuclear materials research in frame of their national research programmes. However, the research performed at EU and Member State levels is not conducted in well-concerted fashion. Further consolidation of the domain, with aim to avoid duplications and to improve complementarity, resulting eventually in the joint European programme on nuclear materials having a necessary dedicated resources and momentum, is necessary.

This action should help further consolidate EU Member States’ research programmes and the Euratom effort in domain of nuclear materials. Such joint approach should help to European players to remain at the forefront of the nuclear materials R&D assuring, on the one hand, highest safety standards of nuclear installations in Europe, and, on the other hand, improving competitiveness of Europe at the world scale in this dynamic technology domain.