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The “Nuclear Waste Management, Safety and Radiation Research (NUSAFE)” program

Preventive research for the benefit of society – nuclear safety

Image: HZDR/Oliver Killig

Even after phasing out nuclear energy for power generation, Germany faces major challenges: The safety of nuclear facilities and the safe disposal of radioactive waste, including final storage, must be ensured for decades to come. This requires excellent research as well as first-class education and training of young scientists and engineers.

The safety assessment of nuclear reactors and the protection of the population and our environment from radiation exposure are strategic, long-term goals of NUSAFE's precautionary research, even after the end of nuclear power generation in Germany. Internationally, however, nuclear energy does have a long-term perspective: countries such as China, Russia and Japan are building new nuclear power plants, and European neighbors such as France continue to rely on nuclear energy. Helping to shape the safety standards of such reactors through our own research is therefore also in our own interest. The NUSAFE program is therefore focused on safety issues: What methods can be used to predict accident histories more accurately? How reliably do safety devices such as emergency cooling and recombiners function? How can accident management in nuclear facilities be improved?

Disposing of radioactive waste in a responsible manner and storing it safely in final repositories will remain a challenge for a very long time to come. According to legal requirements, final repository systems must be proven to be safe for a period of one million years. The NUSAFE program conducts research into the final storage of radioactive waste. One of its areas of focus consists of fundamental processes that have a significant influence on long-term safety. We examine how radioactive waste changes and behaves over time and how so-called radionuclides, i.e., radioactive substances, can be stored securely in final repositories. We also investigate what further steps will be necessary: What factors need to be taken into account when dismantling nuclear facilities? How should problematic (hazardous) types of waste be dealt with? What other issues arise from the interim storage of spent fuel elements, which is expected to continue for a prolonged period? How should monitoring of nuclear materials be organized?

We work to answer these questions by operating unparalleled laboratory infrastructures at the participating Helmholtz Centers: Forschungszentrum Jülich, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf.

The work we do here establishes the necessary conditions for outstanding research in the field of nuclear safety. In cooperation with universities, we also place a strong focus on training and support for the next generation of scientists. The NUSAFE program is closely involved in international networks and research projects, and we help to provide expert advice to policymakers through our membership in various committees.

 

Overview

  • The NUSAFE program plays a key role in assessing the safety of nuclear reactors as well as protecting the population and our environment against exposure to radiation.
  • Through its research into the safe disposal and final storage of radioactive waste, the program is dedicated to supporting an integral component of the energy transition.
  • The unparalleled Helmholtz laboratory infrastructures establish the necessary conditions for outstanding research in the field of nuclear safety.
  • Another of the program’s areas of focus is the provision of training and support to the next generation of scientists.

Topics

  • Nuclear Waste Management
  • Reactor safety

Participating Helmholtz Centers

Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ)

Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR)

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

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Contact

Dirk Bosbach

Programme spokesperson Nuclear Waste Management, Safety and Radiation Research
Forschungszentrum Jülich

Horst Geckeis

Spokesperson Topic 1 Nuclear Waste Management
Karlsruher Institut für Technologie

Sören Kliem

Spokesperson Topic 2 Reactor safety
Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf

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